Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s upcoming Wednesday visit to Washington raises concerns of a repeat of the violent altercations involving members of his security staff, The Hill reported Saturday.
In 2017, video footage posted online revealed a violent brawl between what was described as pro-Erdogan and anti-Erdogan protesters, with what appears to be members of the Turkish diplomatic security team participating, according to ABC. Washington DC Police were forced to intervene in the melee across the street from the Turkish embassy.
Turkeish Anadolu News Agency reported at the time that “the president’s security detail and Turkish police” were involved in the fight. Turkish Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the people involved in the violence.
In its statement, the Turkish Embassy said that the protesters caused the violence by “aggressively provoking” Turkish-American citizens who had gathered to greet the president and had responded in self-defense.
The embassy conflict was not an isolated incident, but one of many that took place that day, according to a lawsuit filed by five people against Turkey, alleging that Turkish diplomatic security went out of its way on US soil to attack protesters during Erdogan’s 2017 visit to the US.
Attached to the lawsuits are testimonies from US Secret Service members who added detail to the incidents, The Hill reports.
According to the US Secret Service staff, Turkish security personnel allegedly attacked protesters on numerous occasions en route to the Turkish Embassy, at one point jumping out of a van transporting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to attack a lone female protestor standing by the side of the road.
“I observed 7 Turkish ‘Suit and tie’ security personnel (one female and 6 males) dismount their passenger van in an all-out sprint running directly toward the single female protestor,” one Secret Service agent wrote. “[T]he female protestor eventually ran away and escaped being assaulted.”
Upon reaching the Turkish embassy, a Turkish officer allegedly slapped the hand of a US Diplomatic Security agent over which bags in the trunk of a limousine belonged to the foreign minister, inciting a brawl between the two security teams, the documents claim.
“In an instant, the gaggle of officers and agents went down to the ground in a physical altercation,” the agent wrote.
Over the course of that brawl, two Turkish agents were handcuffed and detained, and the Turkish ambassador to the US had to personally negotiate their release, according to the report.
The Secret Service identified “over a dozen” Turkish security officials responsible for “inciting violence” on US soil, although the charges against most were dropped, The Hill report says.
The Turkish security placed the responsibility for the altercations on the US Secret Service, and Cavusoglu publicly berated US officers for what he described as their violent actions.
“[Cavusoglu] said that ‘this was not good’ and that he was told by Turkish officials that [Diplomatic Security] agents were the main cause of the incident,” one agent wrote in attached notes “I informed the FM that this was indeed a regrettable incident, however, not one that DS agents bear responsibility for.”
The Service has reportedly declined to provide details to The Hill on what additional measures will be taken, leaving it unclear whether the two security teams will be separated by a team of school nannies.