Mar 25 2018

DoJ must investigate dropped bodyguard charges

The rule of law must take precedence over political expediency in the case against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s bodyguards, said Democratic Party Rep. Bill Pascrell, according to U.S. news website northjersey.com.

Calling for a federal investigation into the dropping of charges against 11 of the 15 bodyguards indicted over assaults on protesters outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, Pascrell wrote in a letter to Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz , “The fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of free speech and peaceful assembly were undermined by members of the Turkish President’s security team's aggressive and unprecedented attacks,” adding, “Justice must be served for those who were brutally attacked, which included a constituent of mine who was choked by one of the bodyguards.”

U.S. Prosecutors had asked that charges against 4 of the men be dropped last November, with charges against 7 others tossed on Feb. 14th, a day before then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Ankara for crucial talks. The timing of events led to scepticism over the reasons for the charges being dropped, though Helen Nauert, the State Department Spokeswoman said the timing was purely coincidental.

The assaults are alleged to have taken place last May during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Amongst those who required hospital treatment was Ceren Bozaran, the person described in Pascrell's letter. She said that one of Erdoğan’s bodyguards had placed her in a headlock so tight it burst a blood vessel in her eye. The bodyguard also threatened to kill her, she said, putting her in fear of her life. 

According to Pascrell’s letter, “These actions are unacceptable in any circumstances. They represent an affront to our American values and core democratic freedoms of free speech and peaceful assembly.”