Posted on September 1, 2017 by Editorial Staff in Turkey
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, June 2016. Photo: Reuters
ANKARA,— A decision by U.S. authorities to arrest Turkish security guards involved in a brawl in Washington in May is a scandal, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
U.S. prosecutors charged a dozen Turkish security and police officers with assault after an attack on Kurdish protesters in Washington during Erdogan’s visit to the U.S. capital in May.
“This is a complete scandal. It is a scandalous sign of how justice works in the United States,” he told reporters after prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Adha celebration.
The May 16 skirmish, caught on video, injured 11 Kurds outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence and further strained bilateral ties at a time when the NATO allies are in sharp disagreement over policy in Syria.
Turkey blamed the violence on demonstrators linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while the Washington police chief described it as a brutal attack on peaceful protesters.
In May the US State Department has confirmed that Erdogan’s bodyguards were behind the brutal attack on Kurdish protesters in Washington, DC.
Erdogan said the United States had failed to provide him protection from members of the PKK during his visit, and added he would discuss the issue with President Donald Trump in his next visit.
The charges against some members of Erdogan’s security detail sent 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.
Since a failed coup attempt last year, Turkey has sacked or suspended more than 150,000 officials in purges, while sending to jail pending trial some 50,000 people including soldiers, police, civil servants.
The crackdown has targeted people whom authorities say they suspect of links to the network of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara blames Gulen for the coup. He denies any involvement.
“These developments in the United States are not good at all. The United States is still a country where the FETO gang (Gulen’s network) is being protected. The United States has literally become a country where the PKK terrorist organisation is under protection,” Erdogan said.
“I am having trouble understanding what the United States is trying to do with all these developments.”
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.
Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing Kurdish civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.
In March 2017, the Turkish security forces accused by UN of committing serious abuses during operations against Kurdish militants in the nation’s southeast.