Turkey’s President Calls US Indictments of His Guards a ‘Scandal’

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By Rick Gladstone

WASHINGTON (New York Times) — Turkey’s president denounced what he called the “scandalous” American judicial system on Friday, September 1, responding to new indictments of his bodyguards over a brawl during his visit to Washington in May.

The remarks in Istanbul by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, underscored his view of the indictments as another affront in an increasingly strained relationship with the United States, a NATO ally.

Members of Erdogan’s armed security detail were captured on video punching, kicking and choking pro-Kurdish protesters, including American citizens, outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington on May 16. Video clips also showed that Erdogan, who was in Washington to meet with President Trump, witnessed the brawl.

Washington police officers intervened to halt the fighting, which the Metropolitan Police chief, Peter Newsham, described as a brutal attack on peaceful protesters that had left at least 11 people injured. American lawmakers and other officials expressed outrage that Erdogan’s guards had behaved in such a manner.

Twelve Turkish security officers were charged in June in connection with the attack. A federal grand jury indicted three more this past Tuesday. Four others also have been charged.

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All but two of the defendants — a pair of Turkish-American businessmen — are at large, and most, if not all, are believed to be in Turkey.

Erdogan’s aides have said his security detail was shielding the Turkish president from what they called inadequate protection by the Washington police from the demonstrators, who were protesting Erdogan’s crackdown on Kurdish separatists.

Erdogan, who had expressed his anger when the initial indictments were announced three months ago, doubled down on his criticism on Friday when asked about the additional indictments.

“This is completely a scandal,” he told reporters in televised remarks on the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday. “It is clearly a scandalous sign of how justice works in America.”

Erdogan also said he would discuss the issue with President Trump if the opportunity arose. Both are attending the United Nations’ annual General Assembly summit meeting later this month.

The criminal charges have added to Erdogan’s irritation with the United States, which predates Trump’s presidency.

Topics: Turkey

Erdogan has repeatedly called on the American judicial authorities to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. He is the leader of a Turkish Muslim sect accused by Erdogan of having helped orchestrate an attempted coup that roiled Turkey in July 2016.

Gulen, a longtime critic of Erdogan’s, has denied any connection to the coup attempt and vowed to fight extradition.

Thousands of people suspected of being followers of Gulen and his sect have been purged from their jobs and prosecuted in Turkey since the coup attempt. Erdogan’s government refers to Gulen’s sect as Feto, an acronym for “Fethullah Gulen terrorist organization.”

The Turkish leader also has criticized the American military for aiding Syrian Kurdish militia fighters in the fight to rout the Islamic State from Syria. Erdogan and his aides regard the Syrian Kurds as enemies because of their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the main Kurdish militant group in Turkey, also known as the P.K.K.

“These developments in the United States are not good at all,” Erdogan said Friday. “The United States is still a country where the Feto gang is being protected.”

He also said the United States “has literally become a country where the P.K.K. terrorist organization is under protection.”

(www.nytimes.com/2017/09/01/world/europe/erdogan-turkey-washington-bodyguards-indicted.html)