Turkey's Erdoğan Lambastes U.S. For Charges Against His Guards After D.C. Protest Clashes

“If they are not going to protect me, why would I bring them with me to America?” the president said.

Turkey summoned the American ambassador Thursday after Washington, D.C., prosecutors issued arrest warrants for members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s security detail over clashes with protesters in the U.S. last month.

Erdoğan vowed on Thursday to “fight politically and judicially” against the warrants issued to 12 Turkish security and police officers on suspicion of assaulting protesters during the Turkish president’s state visit to Washington, D.C., on May 16.

Turkish Foreign Ministry officials told John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, that the American authorities’ action was “unacceptable,” the Guardian reports. “This decision taken by U.S. authorities is wrong, biased and lacks legal basis,” the ministry said in a statement

But in a message from Rex Tillerson that his spokeswoman read to reporters, the 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.”

In all, 18 people have been charged or will face charges over the clashes that injured at least nine protesters. Prosecutors have also issued arrest warrants to two Canadians and four Americans.

Video footage from the incident appears to show a group of men in suits — some wearing passes identifying them as members of Erdoğan’s security entourage — punching and kicking protesters as the president watches from a car near the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C.

A Voice of America Turkish video that the U.S. government-funded news service filmed moments earlier shows an aide leaning into Erdoğan’s car window to talk to him. He relays a message to another aide, who appears to give an order before several men rush toward the protesters. 

And audiovisual analysis that the Daily Caller conducted of VOA Turkish footage indicates that orders to attack were issued to Erdoğan’s security detail. Three Turkish language experts who work at American universities told U.S. News & World Report they agreed with the Daily Caller report that words faintly heard in the video indicate Erdoğan’s personnel said “gel gel gel,” meaning “come, come, come,” and “dalın diyor dalın diyor dalın diyor,” which they translated as “he says attack.” 

All of the Turkish personnel named in the warrants are back in their country. 

Erdoğan said his guards were only protecting him.

“What kind of a law is this?” he said on TV, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. “If they are not going to protect me, why would I bring them with me to America?” he added, referring to his security detail.

The president said the protesters were members of an outlawed Kurdish militant group and that the local police had failed to protect him.

The Foreign Ministry said in its statement that the “brawl” was “caused by the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures.” “Turkish citizens cannot be held responsible for the incident that took place,” the ministry added.

The clashes occurred shortly after Erdoğan returned from a meeting with President Donald Trump, who had praised his Turkish counterpart. Tensions between the countries have been strained since former President Barack Obama decided to arm the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as part of a strategy to fight the Islamic State militant group.