Turkey’s Erdogan furious over US warrants for aides in embassy brawl

This file photo taken on June 13, 2017 shows Turkish President and Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivering a speech during an AK party's group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara. (AFP)
Updated 16 June 2017

Turkey’s Erdogan furious over US warrants for aides in embassy brawl

WASHINGTON: US authorities on Thursday announced arrest warrants had been issued for 12 members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail for assaulting protesters in Washington last month, sparking a furious response from the Turkish leader.
Erdogan said the United States had no right to arrest his guards, who he said were protecting him from “terrorists.”
The Turkish foreign ministry officially “invited” the US ambassador in for discussions after the announcement.
But Washington held that Erdogan’s security detail had no justification to attack the small group of Kurdish and Armenian protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on May 16, just after Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House.
Nine people were injured, with several going to the hospital for treatment of head injuries, broken teeth, deep cuts and bruises.
The charges against the 12, along with six other Turkish-Americans and Turkish-Canadians who joined the melee, “send a clear message that the United States does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
Erdogan lashed back, accusing US police of having allowed “terrorists” to protest “50 meters from me” during his US visit.
“Why would I bring my guards with me to the United States, if not to protect me?” he said in a speech in Ankara, adding that US police “did nothing.”
“We will fight politically and judicially” against the warrants, he added.

The 12 men named in the warrants were identified in detailed video footage of the assault, said Washington Police Chief Peter Newsham. The men, all Turkish citizens, include nine Erdogan security guards and three Turkish police.
The violence erupted in broad daylight in Washington’s diplomatic quarter, just minutes after Erdogan arrived at the ambassador’s residence from the White House.
Video of the fracas shows Turkish security aides beating demonstrators and kicking those some on the ground repeatedly in the head.
The State Department lodged a formal protest with Ankara over the incident at the time, registering its concern in the “strongest possible terms.”
In a charging document presented in court Thursday against Sinan Narin, one of four Turkish-Americans already arrested in the case, Washington police detective Victor DePeralta called the incident a “vicious attack.”
Shortly after Erdogan’s limousine pulled up, his security officers and supporters rushed across the street at the protesters “in a nearly simultaneous, coordinated throng,” the detective said.
“Members of the Turkish security detail were seen speaking with each other and touching communication devices seconds before the rush,” he said.
The protesters, he said, “were not physically aggressive in any way, nor were they even physically proximate to the pro-Erdogan contingent.”

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser condemned the violence strongly on Thursday, saying it violated the constitutional right to peaceful protest.
“We host millions of people who come to the seat of their government to protest peacefully. We support them, we make sure that they are safe, but we also make sure that they follow our law,” Bowser said at a press conference.
“Anyone traveling to the United States will be held to that same standard,” she said.
Newsham did not explain how police expected to arrest the 12, given their location in Turkey and possible diplomatic protections. He said the State Department would determine how to execute the warrants.


Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

Updated 21 October 2019

Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

  • Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied on Sunday
  • The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters were expected to return to the streets for a fifth day Monday, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri holding a cabinet meeting to try to calm the unprecedented demonstrations.
Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied against corruption and the entire political class Sunday, the largest such demonstrations in the country for years.
Early Monday morning protesters began to block main roads and prevent employees going to work, while calls on social media urged people to boycott work.
Banks, universities and schools closed their doors Monday, with Hariri expected to offer reforms in a bid to stem the anger.
“It’s a day of destiny for us. All our hard work and efforts in previous days and years were to get us to this moment,” said Roni Al-Asaad, a 32-year-old activist in central Beirut.
“If they could have implemented these reforms before, why haven’t they? And why should we believe them today?”
At the nerve center of the demonstrations near the country’s houses of government in central Beirut, volunteers were once again collecting rubbish from the streets, many wearing face masks and plastic gloves.
The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday evening in response to a proposed tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.
While the government quickly dropped that plan, the leaderless protests morphed into demands for a sweeping overhaul of the political system, with grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.
Hariri had given his coalition partners three days to support reforms he said were crucial to get the economy back on track.
On Sunday evening a cabinet official said that the parties had agreed.
The cabinet will hold a meeting chaired by President Michel Aoun at 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) to discuss the reforms.
Demonstrators said Hariri’s proposals would not be enough, with demands for the entire political class to resign.
“All of them are warlords,” said Patrick Chakar, 20. “We waited 30 years or more for them to change and they didn’t.”
More than a quarter of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line, the World Bank says, while the political class has remained relatively unchanged since the end of a devastating 15-year civil war in 1990.
Lebanon ranked 138 out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2018 corruption index, and residents suffer chronic electricity and water shortages.
Lebanese media hailed the demonstrations.
Al-Akhbar newspaper, which is close to Shiite Muslim militant party Hezbollah, published a picture of protesters carrying a giant flag on its front page with a commentary on “Test Day: Power or People?”
The French-language newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour said “The hour of truth has arrived,” while the English-language The Daily Star said: “Lebanon’s only paths: reform or abyss.”