President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has criticized the U.S. move to issue arrest warrants for 12 of his bodyguards linked to a brawl outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington last month, while the Foreign Ministry has summoned the U.S. ambassador to Ankara.
Several people were injured when a brawl broke out outside Turkey’s Washington embassy during Erdoğan’s visit to the U.S. in May.
On June 15 the U.S. authorities issued arrest warrants for 16 people, including 12 bodyguards of the Turkish president, over the incident.
“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?” Erdoğan said in a speech at an iftar fast-breaking meal in the capital Ankara
later on June 15.
He also said the U.S. police failed to intervene in the brawl.
Erdoğan claimed that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) and members of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) were united in protest against him at a short distance of 40-50 meters from where he was with his bodyguards.
“The U.S. police did nothing. Can you imagine what the response would have been if a similar incident had taken place in Turkey?” he added.
Erdoğan vowed that Ankara
would “continue its political and legal struggle” regarding the incident.
The melee outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence during the president’s visit to the United States in May overshadowed the visit and further strained U.S.-Turkish relations. Eleven people were hurt in what Washington’s police chief described as a “brutal attack” on peaceful protesters.
Two men, identified as Sinan Narin of Virginia and Eyüp Yıldırım of New Jersey, were detained over the incident on June 14.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador John Bass after the issuance of the warrants.
The ministry called the U.S. decision “wrong and biased,” stating that the local authorities failed to take necessary precautions around the embassy during the brawl.
“It has been conveyed to the Ambassador that this decision taken by the U.S. authorities is wrong, biased and lacks legal basis; that the brawl in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence was caused by the failure of the local security authorities to take necessary measures; that this incident would not have occurred if the U.S. authorities had taken the usual measures they take in similar high level visits, and therefore that Turkish citizens cannot be held responsible for the incident that took place,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry added that it was stressed that the decision was “unacceptable” and “clearly did not come as a result of an impartial and independent investigation.”
“The Ambassador of the United States of America
has also been informed that the tolerance of the U.S. authorities towards the so-called protesters to approach as close as a few meters to the Turkish Residence with flags and symbols of a terrorist organization and their assault on innocent citizens, as well as the lack of any action taken against the U.S. security personnel who assaulted the security guards of our Minister in front of the Chancery, run counter to any understanding of justice,” it said.
However, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that 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.”
Once the legal case is concluded, the department “will determine if any additional steps will need to be taken,” Tillerson said in the statement read by a spokeswoman to reporters.