A U.S. federal court on Feb. 6 denied a request made by Turkey to dismiss a civil suit by protesters who are seeking damages after they were violently beaten while demonstrating against the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Washington D.C. in 2017, The Hills has reported.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly struck down Ankara’s argument that security officials accused of assaulting protesters were protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as protesters were posing an immediate threat to Erdoğan.
Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her judgment that the abundance of video evidence from the scene showed that “the protesters were merely standing on the Sheridan Circle sidewalk” and did not warrant the alleged violent attack by security officers.
“Defendant Turkey points to no indication that an attack by the protesters was imminent,” the judge wrote.
“Instead, the Turkish security forces chased and violently physically attacked the protesters, many of whom had fallen to the ground and no longer posed a threat.”
Sheridan Circle, a large grassy roundabout near the Turkish ambassador’s residence, in the heart of Washington’s embassy district, made the headlines on May 16, 2017 after videos recorded Erdoğan’s bodyguards attacking protesters, prompting outrage both within the U.S. and in the international arena.
While Turkish authorities said that the demonstrators were supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group designated as a terrorist organization by both NATO allies, and the aim was to protect Erdoğan, criminal charges were directed against the Turkish president’s guards.
Two Turkish security guards were briefly detained after the incident, but were soon allowed to return to Turkey. Several months later, 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials, were indicted in connection with the incident. But in the spring of 2018, the Justice Department dropped the charges against all but four, for whom charges are still pending.
Twenty of the victims, mostly Kurdish American, are suing the Turkish government for damages, in two separate lawsuits.
Doug Bregman, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, welcomed the U.S. judge’s ruling on Feb. 6, saying: “We are sending a message to dictators that they cannot do to demonstrators in this country what they do to dissenters in theirs.”