Two men have been arrested for their role in a violent altercation outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence during a recent visit to Washington by Turkey’s president, police said Wednesday.
The Metropolitan police department said in a brief statement that Sinan Narin had been arrested in Virginia on an aggravated assault charge. It said Eyup Yildirim had been arrested in New Jersey on charges of assault with significant bodily injury and aggravated assault.
The department released no further details about the men but said additional information would be available Thursday.
A spokesman for the US attorney’s office in New Jersey confirmed that Yildirim made his first appearance before a judge there on Wednesday.
Narin and Yildirim were both participants in the protests, according to a US official familiar with the case. On the day of the violence, police detained two members of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s security detail but released them shortly afterward. Two other men were arrested at the scene – one for aggravated assault and the other for assaulting a police officer.
The US official, who was not authorized to speak publicly to the matter and demanded anonymity, said DC police had identified 34 of 42 people who were involved in the fight, and are seeking their arrests. Police are expected to release photos of the other eight possible suspects and appeal to the public for information on their identities, the official said.
The clash happened as Erdoğan arrived at the ambassador’s residence after a White House meeting with Donald Trump on 16 May.
Video of the protest showed security guards and some Erdoğan supporters attacking a small group of protesters with their fists and feet. Men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking one woman as she lay curled on a sidewalk. Another wrenched a woman’s neck and threw her to the ground. A man with a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face.
After police officers struggled to protect the protesters and ordered the men in suits to retreat, several of the men dodged the officers and ran into the park to continue the attacks. In all, nine people were hurt.
The fracas added to already strained US-Turkish ties. The Nato allies have publicly clashed over a US decision to arm Syrian Kurdish rebels fighting the Islamic State in Syria. Turkey considers the fighters to be an extension the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey known as the PKK, and claims without evidence that protesters who showed up during Erdoğan’s visit to Washington last week were themselves associated with the PKK.
US officials had strongly criticized the Turkish government after Erdoğan’s security forces for the violence, and the state department summoned Turkey’s ambassador to the US to complain. The Turkish foreign ministry then summoned the US ambassador to Turkey to complain about the treatment of the detained security guards.
Turkey’s US embassy alleged the demonstrators were associated with the PKK, which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency against Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by the United States.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said they chanted anti-Erdoğan slogans, and that the Turkish president’s team moved in to disperse them because “police did not heed to Turkish demands to intervene”.
The Turkish embassy claimed the demonstrators were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the president. The Turkish-Americans responded in self-defense and one of them was seriously injured.”
But Mehmet Yuksel, who arrived immediately after the incident and knows almost all of the dozen or so demonstrators, said they weren’t connected with the PKK. The victims included Americans, he said at the time, and there was no justification for the attack.