WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) - Washington prosecutors have charged a dozen Turkish security and police officers with assault after an attack on protesters during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the U.S. capital last month, officials said on Thursday.
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,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
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.
Erdogan said he would fight back politically against the arrest warrants, broadcaster CNN Turk quoted him as saying on Thursday.
The daytime brawl outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in the city on May 16 left nine protesters injured and strained U.S.-Turkish relations.
A video posted online showed men in dark suits chasing protesters and punching and kicking them as Washington police struggled to intervene.
“I condemn this attack,” Mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters at a news conference announcing the charges. “It was an affront to our values.”
Arrest warrants for the members of Erdogan’s security detail have been issued, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said.
“If they attempt to enter the United States, they will be arrested,” he said.
Newsham said there was no probable cause to arrest Erdogan, who watched the confrontation unfold from a nearby car.
A total of 18 people have been charged in the incident. They include two Canadians and four Americans, according to prosecutors.
Two men were arrested on Wednesday. Sinan Narin of Virginia faces a charge of felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor assault, and Eyup Yildirim of New Jersey faces two charges of felony assault and a misdemeanor assault charge.
Some additional suspects still have not been identified, the police chief said.
(Reporting by Tom Ramstack; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Dan Grebler and Andrew Hay)