President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised the US decision to issue arrest warrants for 12 of his bodyguards allegedly linked with a brawl outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC.
Several people were injured when a brawl broke out outside Turkey’s embassy during Erdogan’s visit to the US in May.
Washington, DC police reportedly obtained the arrest warrants for the bodyguards on Thursday.
Speaking at a dinner to break the Ramadan fast in the capital, Ankara, on Thursday, Erdogan said: “They have issued arrest warrants for 12 of my bodyguards. What kind of law is this?
“If my bodyguards cannot protect me, then why am I bringing them to America with me?”
He said Kurdish PKK fighters and members of what Turkey calls the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) were united in protest against him at a short distance of 40-50 metres from where he was with his bodyguards.
“The US police is doing nothing. Can you imagine what the response would have been if a similar incident had taken place in Turkey?” Erdogan said.
According to the Turkish government, FETO and its US-based leader Fethullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured.
Turkey also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
On the other hand, more than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK – listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and EU – resumed its decades-old armed campaign in July 2015.
Earlier on Thursday, Turkey’s foreign ministry called in John Bass, the US ambassador to Ankara, for talks over the arrest warrants
“It has been conveyed to the ambassador that this decision taken by US authorities is wrong, biased and lacks legal basis,” the ministry said in a statement, blaming local authorities for failing to take proper security measures with regards to the “so-called protesters”.
Washington, DC District Police Chief Peter Newsham said nine Turkish security agents, three Turkish police officers and two Canadians were being sought over the brawl.
He also said two arrests were made on Wednesday.
“We all saw the violence that was perpetrated against the protesters,” Newsham said. “We’re not going to tolerate this.”
State department messages
Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, said the charges “send a clear message that the United States does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression.”
Heather Nauert, state department spokesperson, declined to say what actions might be taken, but the US could seek the extradition of the Turkish suspects or bar them from entering the US.
Erdogan’s security detail returned with him to Turkey after his visit, so it was unclear if any would face any immediate US legal repercussions.
However, they could end up being threatened with arrest if they return to the US. If any are still in the country, they could be expelled if Turkey refuses to waive diplomatic immunity.
Erdogan visits US in bid to stop arming of Kurdish fighters in Syria
“They should bring themselves here to the US to answer these charges,” Newsham said.
Newsham recounted how video near the residence showed some attacking protesters with their fists and feet.
Men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking one woman as she lay curled on the pavement.
A man with a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face.
After officers struggled to protect the protesters and ordered the men in suits to retreat, several of the men dodged the officers and ran into a park to continue the attacks.
Source: News agencies