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US indictment of Erdogan's security detail sparks debate.

Menekse Tokyay In this file video screenshot provided by Voice of America, members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail are shown violently reacting to peaceful protesters during Erdogan's trip last month to Washington. (AP) ANKARA: Tuesday's indictment of 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials, by a US grand jury is likely to further complicate relations between Ankara and Washington. The indictment relates to a clash in Washington between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail and protesters on May 16. Described by Washington's police chief as a "brutal attack," it happened outside the Turkish ambassador's residence after a meeting between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump at the White House. The US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia announced that 16 of the defendants had already been charged in June, while the indictment on Tuesday added three to the list. All 19 defendants were indicted "on a charge of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, with a bias crime enhancement," the office said. The charge is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison, and bias enhancement could lead to longer sentences, the statement said. Only two of the 19 are currently in custody, and they are expected to have an initial court hearing on Sept. 7, it added. The Turkish Embassy blamed the violence on demonstrators linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered by the US and Turkey as a terrorist group. The PKK has been waging a bloody insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades. Ankara criticized the US arrest warrants for Turkish citizens allegedly involved as "wrong" and "unacceptable." Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News: "The culture and laws regarding peaceful protesters are different in Turkey and the US." He added: "In Washington there are several protests in front of the White House and embassies, usually attended by a handful, on any given day, and security forces don't interfere. The physical intervention of Erdogan's security detail against peaceful protestors was against US law, and legal consequences were expected from the very first day." Unluhisarcikli said it was a public diplomacy disaster for Turkey. "This incident could've been prevented if Erdogan's security detail refused to be provoked by the protesters," he said. "The US police could've kept the protesters at a greater distance from the Turkish Embassy for Erdogan's security at the very least." Unluhisarcikli said the incident will add to the long list of problems between the two NATO allies. They are at odds over the US decision to directly arm Kurdish militants in Syria, known as People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist group affiliated with the PKK. Oubai Shahbandar, a fellow at New America's International Security Program, expressed hope that both sides can move forward from the incident in Washington and focus on more important geopolitical issues. "US policy in continuing to support the PKK terror group's wing in Syria is ultimately not in the interests of American national security and certainly detrimental to Turkey's security, and in the long term harmful to the Syrian people," Shahbandar told Arab News. He said Defense Secretary James Mattis' visit to Turkey last week was viewed positively, but Ankara needs a US commitment to fight the PKK and prevent it from expanding its safe havens in Iraq and Syria, which will be used to attack civilians in Turkey. "In Washington, there doesn't seem to be a long-term plan to secure the gains made against Daesh in Syria," Shahbandar said. "The tactical partnership that the US has built with the PKK affiliate in Syria as part of the anti-Daesh fight will probably prove unsustainable in the long term."

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Aug 31, 2017
Words:635
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