The US Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal to dismiss lawsuits against two of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s security staff who allegedly assaulted protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington DC in 2017.
Turkey applied to lower courts requesting the cases be dismissed, citing immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
But the lower courts ruled that the the events in 2017 were not covered by the act, and that the lawsuits would go ahead under the Supreme Court’s ruling, after reportedly delaying judgement for months while US President Joe Biden’s administration’s views were gathered on the matter.
During Erdoğan’s visit to the United States in May 2017, a brawl broke out between Erdoğan’s supporters and -the mostly Kurdish- protesters. Two people were arrested for assault, while nine others were injured and taken to a hospital after the DC police unsuccessfully tried to separate the groups.
A demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in northwest Washington led to nine people being injured, and two arrested pic.twitter.com/6SQTlQAUaa
— Voice of America (@VOANews) May 17, 2017
Video footage from the incident showed Erdoğan’s bodyguards physically intervening with several protesters, who accused the President’s security team of injuring them and filed two lawsuits demanding financial compensation.
After the brawl between the Turkish President’s security and the pro-Kurdish protesters drew international condemnation, DC officials issued warrants on assault charges.
“We intend to assure that there is accountability for anyone involved in this assault,” said Peter Newsham, the DC Police Chief of the time. “We witnessed what appeared to be a brutal attack on peaceful protests.”
Erdoğan responded to the charges by saying that the demonstrators were associated with terrorist organisations.
“What kind of law is this?” he asked, “If my security guards cannot to protect me why would I bring them with me to America?”
The New York Times analysed the video of the incident and spotted that after the security chief leaned into the Turkish president’s car, he spoke into his earpiece, and three guards ran toward the Kurdish protesters.
The protesters mostly carried banners calling for freedom for pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş who has been incarcerated in Turkey on terrorism charges since 2016.