Federal prosecutors have quietly dismissed assault charges leveled against several members of the Turkish presidential guard who savagely attacked protesters in Washington, D.C. last year, The Washington Post reports.
The guards, stationed outside the Turkish ambassador’s home not far from the White House, reportedly charged and beat demonstrators who’d gathered there while Erdogan was inside in an effort to send Erdogan a message about increased censorship and state surveillance in Turkey, and to draw attention to the Turkish president’s actions against civil liberties in his home country.
Fifteen guards were indicted in early July 2017, WaPo says, for their role in a clear violation of protesters’ rights. But by May 2018, exactly one year after the incident, federal prosecutors had dropped all but seven indictments. Last week, prosecutors quietly ended their case against three more bodyguards.
Both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal requested comment from the U.S. Attorney’s office, but neither received a response. Sources close to the decision told The Washington Post that prosecutors feared they did not have enough evidence to convict the guards, and that, despite video of the event which went viral across social media, they don’t have many clear pictures of the bodyguards’ faces.
Turkey also complained about the charges to the local U.S. ambassador, and it was clear from the moment the indictments dropped that Turkey had no intention of extraditing anyone to face trial in the United States.
Four indictments remain on the books, for guards Ismail Dalkiran, Servet Erkan, Ahmet Karabay and Mehmet Sarman, all identified by the State Department from protest footage.
Sarman is charged with assaulting both protesters and D.C. police officers. Karabay and Dalkiran allegedly assaulted protesters and ignored orders to stop from members of law enforcement. “Erkan was charged with recklessly causing significant bodily injury to one victim and charged with using a dangerous weapon, a shod foot, on another person.”