Politics

House Calls For Charges Over Turkish Embassy Melee

| by Erik Kindel

The House of Representatives put partisan politics aside on June 5 for a unanimous vote in favor of a resolution that condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's bodyguards for attacking peaceful U.S. protesters last month and called for the members involved to be brought to justice.

Lawmakers voted 397-0 for the resolution and called the violence an insult to America's First Amendment rights.

The BBC reports that the resolution states: "Any Turkish security officials who directed, oversaw, or participated in efforts by Turkish security forces to illegally suppress peaceful protests… should be charged and prosecuted under United States Law."

The Washington Post notes that while this resolution reflects the bipartisan outrage over the incident, it carries no force of law. House members say they hope the strongly worded, widely supported measure will put pressure on the Trump administration to make Turkey face consequences.

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Both the U.S. State Department and Turkish officials are conducting independent investigations of the incident.

The Trump administration had held two Turkish bodyguards briefly, but released them to return to Turkey with Erdogan.

Turkey, a member of NATO and a key ally in America's strategy to defeat ISIS, has rebuffed the criticism, blaming the May 16 violence on demonstrators who provoked both Turkish-American citizens and the bodyguards. Turkey also asserted that the demonstrators were aligned with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a group that has fought a three-decade insurgency against Turkey and is named as a terrorist group in the U.S., though Turkey did not offer any evidence for this claim.

The Washington Post reports that Turkey even accused American legislators of attempting to "distort and politicize" the event, and released a statement saying the widely supported measure went "against the spirit of alliance and partnership" between the U.S. and Turkey. Turkey maintains that Erdogan's bodyguards did nothing wrong.

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One video of the melee shows Erdogan watching from his car as his bodyguards hit and kicked protesters.

House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer told the Washington Post: "The conduct must change … There must be consequences for this unprovoked attack."

Senate Democrats and Republicans alike are also demanding action from the Trump administration. A group even urged Rex Tillerson to waive immunity for Turkish bodyguards.

However it remains to be seen how Trump's administration plans to handle a situation that Republican Rep. Ed Royce, the chairman of the Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee, called "an act of suppression on American soil."

Sources: BBC, Washington Post (2) / Photo credit: Shealah Craighead/White House

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