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Members of Turkish Security Detail Charged with Assault, But How Will They Face Justice in U.S.?

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, left, with Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham, center, and Brian Ebert, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office, speaks during a news conference in Washington on June 15, 2017, about the May 16, 2017, with posters of wanted Turkish security agents in the background. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — D.C. police announced warrants this week for several Turkish security officials implicated in the May attack on protesters outside of the ambassador’s residence, but the State Department didn’t shed light today on what they might do to bring the wanted men to justice.

The violence unfolded as a small group of Kurdish protesters held signs and chanted across the street from the Turkish facility in D.C. during the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Video from the scene not only shows the attack on the protesters in detail, but additional footage shows Erdoğan viewing the protests from his armored Mercedes and something being communicated to his security staff before the attack began.

Nine protesters were injured. Two men were arrested that day: Jalal Kheirabaoi, of Virginia, was among the protesters and charged with misdemeanor assault on a police officer. Ayten Necmi, of New York, was among the Turks and was charged with felony aggravated assault.

During the investigation into remaining assailants, Erdoğan and his security team left the country.

After a joint probe with the State Department and the Secret Service, the Metropolitan Police Department announced two arrests on Wednesday: Sinan Narin of Virginia was charged with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner. Eyup Yildirim of New Jersey was charged with felony assault with significant bodily injury, felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner.

A dozen of the remaining men and one woman wanted on various assault charges are all identified as Turkish security officials. Two additional men, Mahmut Sami Ellialti and Ahmet Cengizham Dereci, are also sought by police on assault charges.

State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters today that the U.S. government is “taking a look and examining the investigation’s findings.”

“We will weigh what additional steps will need to be taken. Our actions will be responsive and proportional to the charges. Our focus is to work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those who are responsible for the violence are held accountable for those actions,” she said.

The U.S. ambassador attended meetings at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs today in Turkey, she said, but “we’ve been told from the staff there that they’re not going to get into additional details about what happened.”

“Everyone wants to hear about immunity. So, there’s something that I know can be somewhat controversial and it’s basically this. There’s customary international law that affords heads of state certain protections in the United States referred to as head of state immunity. You’ve heard of this before,” Nauert continued. “Members of the entourage of the heads of state are said to have derivative head of state immunity. Now, the minute those members of the entourage leave the United States, they lose that derivative head of state immunity, and they then become subject to legal actions such as an arrest or a subpoena.”

“So, they lose that now that they’re over there. They had immunity while they were here. So, if they were to come back to the United States — and a lot of this is a law enforcement issue, OK, so I’m not going to get too into what Department of Justice has purview over. But if they were to come back to the United States, they would have — they have warrants.”

Asked about whether the U.S. would try for extradition, Nauert said the administration “will weigh additional actions.”

“This is not over yet,” she added. “We will hold those responsible for the violence on May the 16th and we’ll continue to look at this.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he was “encouraged” by the warrants.

“The violent attacks by Turkish security forces on peaceful protesters in Washington were completely and totally unjustified,” Royce said in a statement today. “Now, the State Department should double down on efforts to help bring these individuals to justice. And furthermore, the Department should reject the proposed sale of $1.2 million of semi-automatic handguns and ammunition to these security forces.”

“These types of unprovoked attacks on innocent Americans and their Constitutional rights can never happen again,” he added.