US court dismisses Turkey’s attempt to shut down Erdogan bodyguard attack cases

Members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail attack protesters during Erdogan's 2017 trip to Washington. (AP/File photo)
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Updated 09 February 2020

US court dismisses Turkey’s attempt to shut down Erdogan bodyguard attack cases

  • Turkey claims it should have sovereign immunity from legal proceedings
  • Attack in May 2017 left nine protesters injured during Erdogan's visit to Washington

LONDON: A US court has rejected a Turkish attempt to dismiss civil cases brought by protesters who were violently attacked in Washington by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security officers.

The incident took place in May 2017 during a visit to the US by the Turkish president. About a dozen bodyguards beat-up a group demonstrating outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.

The attack, which was caught on video, left nine people injured and further strained US relations with Turkey.

 

 

While criminal charges against the security guards were dropped within a year, around the same time Turkey released a US pastor, the victims pressed ahead with a civil case.

On Thursday, a federal court denied Turkey’s request to have the two cases thrown out on the grounds that it should have sovereign immunity from legal proceedings.

In her 36-page opinion, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the protesters had not posed a threat and were merely gathered on a sidewalk outside the residence at Sheridan Circle when Erdogan’s security burst through a police line and attacked them.

“The Turkish security forces did not have the discretion to violently physically attack the protesters, with the degree and nature of force which was used, when the protesters were standing, protesting on a public sidewalk,” she said. “And, Turkish security forces did not have the discretion to continue violently physically attacking the protesters after the protesters had fallen to the ground or otherwise attempted to flee.”

The judge said Turkey “has not met its burden of persuasion to show that it is immune from suit in these cases.”

The ruling was welcomed by the victims of the attack, which Erdogan stopped to watch as he made his way from his car to inside the residence.

 

 

“We are sending a message to dictators that they cannot do to demonstrators in this country what they do to dissenters in theirs,” Doug Bregman, a lawyer for the victims, told The Hill news website.

Agnieszka Fryszman, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: “We look forward to proving our claims in court and to getting a just result for our clients who were attacked and badly injured while protesting against human rights abuses. I am glad the Court agreed that agents of a foreign country should not be able to claim immunity for their violent attack on free speech in the United States.”

The two cases will now move ahead to the next phase.

 


Operation underway against militants near Pakistan-Iran border

Updated 5 min 30 sec ago

Operation underway against militants near Pakistan-Iran border

  • Intelligence officials, locals, insurgent spokesman confirm raids in Balochistan province
  • Raids being carried out against militants hiding in Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar areas

DUBAI/KARACHI: A major intelligence-based operation is ongoing against militants hiding near Pakistan’s border with Iran in the southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistani intelligence officials and local witnesses said, in the latest attempt to combat violence on the 900-km shared frontier.

Over the years, Iran and Pakistan have accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

In the most recent attack that has caused friction between the two nations, six Pakistani security personnel were killed in a bomb attack on a paramilitary Frontier Corps vehicle, the army’s media wing said on May 19. Six Pakistani soldiers were also killed in a roadside bomb attack in Balochistan on May 8.

Several militant groups are active in Balochistan, Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province. Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on, or claimed by, ethnic Baloch separatists.

Baloch Khan, a spokesperson for Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of Baloch insurgent groups, confirmed in a media statement last month that a “Pakistan army operation” was ongoing and soldiers were surrounding and raiding remote villages. However, he said no commanders or fighters of BRAS had been killed in the attacks.

An intelligence official who declined to be named told Arab News that it is called the Ground Zero Clearance Operation.

Two additional intelligence officials confirmed that an operation is ongoing. Two local witnesses in the Mand area of Kech district also confirmed “actions” in their area.

In a Twitter post on May 23, a pro-government politician from Balochistan, Nawabzada Jamal Khan Raisani, said the Pakistani military had launched “a sweeping operation” against the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) along the border with Iran.

Both groups are part of BRAS, along with the Baloch Republican Army and the Baloch Republican Guards.

“The action began (on May 21) with a string of terrorists neutralized and hideouts busted,” Raisani said.

He told Arab News that a senior BLF commander, Abdul Hameed (alias Ghazin Baloch), was among two dozen militants killed in the ongoing operation, which he said was led by Pakistani soldiers and intelligence officers.

The media wing of the Pakistani military and the Foreign Office declined a request by Arab News for comment.

Ijaz Ahmed Shah, the federal interior minister, said his team would respond to emailed questions, but no reply had been received until the time of press. 

Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Ullah Langove did not respond to specific questions about the operation “for security reasons,” but said: “We have taken effective actions.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue, one intelligence officer based in the city of Turbat said a “bank of targets” had been gathered by officials over many weeks, and raids are now being carried out in several areas, particularly against militants hiding in the border areas of Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar.

Pakistan began fencing its 900-km border with Iran in May last year, which had become a source of “frustration” for militants, the intelligence official said, leading them to plan more attacks.

Last month, Pakistan’s military chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to his Iranian counterpart Maj. Gen. Mohammed Bagheri via telephone.

They discussed border fencing, the improvement of border terminals, enhancing security and recent attacks on Pakistani troops near the border, among other issues, according to a statement from the Pakistani Army’s media wing.

On April 20 last year, just days after militants killed 14 bus passengers in an attack along the border with Iran, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the insurgents behind the attack were based in Iran, calling on Tehran to take action. The attack had been claimed by BRAS.

“The training camps and logistical camps of this new alliance (BRAS) ... are inside the Iranian border region,” Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. Iran denied any state involvement.

Just days after Qureshi’s comments, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during a televised news conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was visiting Tehran, that the two nations would form a joint quick reaction force to combat militant activity on their shared border.

“We agreed to increase the security cooperation of the two countries, our border forces, our intelligence forces, and also to form a joint quick reaction force on the border of the two countries for fighting terrorism,” Rouhani said.

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