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U.S. House Calls For Criminal Charges Against Turkish Bodyguards In D.C. Clash

New Video Shows Erdogan Watching Washington Brawl
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WATCH: New Video Shows Erdogan Watching Washington Brawl

The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously called for U.S. criminal charges against members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail who attacked protesters in Washington last month.

The 397 to 0 vote for the House resolution late on June 6 came after lawmakers expressed outrage over what many called a "brutal" attack on peaceful demonstrators on May 16 outside the Turkish ambassador's residence that left 11 people injured.

"Multiple armed Turkish security officials beat, kicked, and choked unarmed demonstrators," the resolution states in unusually sharp language against a NATO ally.

"Any Turkish security officials who directed, oversaw, or participated in efforts by Turkish security forces to illegally suppress peaceful protests...should be charged and prosecuted under United States law."

A similar measure responding to the violent incident is working its way through the U.S. Senate, but it is unclear whether the legislation will result in any arrests. The Turkish bodyguards who were blamed for the attacks have returned to Turkey.

Washington police and other U.S. officials have blamed Erdogan's security detail for attacking a small group of pro-Kurdish protesters during Erdogan's visit to the capital.

The U.S. State Department called the violence "deeply disturbing" and numerous U.S. lawmakers said it highlighted the autocratic nature of Erdogan's rule and his dismissal of human rights and civil rights protections.

Turkey blamed the unrest on supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who Ankara maintains picked a fight with pro-Erdogan Turks who were also present at the demonstration.

The PKK is viewed as a terrorist group both in Washington and Ankara, but Turkey has not provided any evidence that PKK militants were at the scene of the clash.

Turkey also has protested against what it called "aggressive and unprofessional actions" by Washington police, who are seen in videos struggling to protect protesters during the incident.

Lawmakers widely dismissed Ankara's portrayal of the clash.

"The blame for this assault lies with the Turkish government alone," House Speaker Paul Ryan said. "I urge Istanbul to finally accept responsibility for this egregious incident and apologize to those who were harmed."

The House resolution urges the State Department to request that Turkey waive diplomatic immunity for those involved.

"The United States will not tolerate violence against peaceful protesters on our shores, and those responsible must face justice," said Steny Hoyer, the House's second-ranking Democrat and co-sponsor of the resolution.

"The conduct must change. It is unacceptable."

Video posted on social media immediately after the clash showed Turkish officials dressed in suits beating and punching people in the crowd and, in at least one case, kicking a woman splayed on the ground.

One video on social media even showed Erdogan watching the melee from his car and later exiting the vehicle and glancing toward the fight.

Washington, D.C., police arrested two members of Erdogan's detail after the clash but released them soon afterward and they returned to Turkey with Erdogan.

The House resolution does not have the force of law, so it would only prompt further action against the Turkish security officials if the Trump administration chose to honor the resolution. The State Department has said it is still investigating the matter.

It was not the first episode of violence by Turkish security personnel on U.S. soil, lawmakers said. Last year, a similar scuffle erupted outside a nuclear security summit that Erdogan attended in Washington.

"Same head of state, same thugs attacking peaceful protesters," said Washington's representative in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

With reporting by AP and AFP