Cüneyt Dil
Dec 21 2017

Two Erdoğan supporters plead guilty in Turkish embassy brawl

Two Turkish-American supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pleaded guilty to assault on Thursday in connection with an attack on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s  Washington residence in May.

Court documents said nine protesters were injured in brawls when “Erdoğan supporters and Turkish security personnel” attacked demonstrators in Washington's Sheridan Circle on May 16. Around a dozen demonstrators had gathered outside the residency chanting anti-Erdoğan and pro-Kurdish slogans as the president arrived after meeting U.S. President Donald Trump.

The fight is just one of a number of issues to cloud relations between the United States and Turkey.

Eyüp Yıldırım of New Jersey and Sinan Narın of Virginia said in court they had agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors, after initially pleading not guilty in September. The pair were arrested days apart from each other in June.

The two likely face a year in prison under the plea deal with prosecutors. A sentencing hearing, where victims will have a chance to speak, has been scheduled for March 15. Yıldırım, 50, and Narın, 45, pleaded guilty to one charge of assault with significant bodily injury, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of up to $12,500, the judge said.

 

Video footage shows the attack took place in view of Erdoğan, who pulled up to the residency with his security detail after meeting Trump earlier in the day.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department charged 19 people, 15 of them Erdoğan’s bodyguards. Only the two defendants were arrested after the fight. The rest remain at large. All were with charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. This charge came with a bias crime enhancement which, under DC law, could increase the length of the sentence by up to 50%. Hate crime charges were dropped against Yıldırım and Narın as part of the plea deal.

This case is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

The events marked another point of tension in a year of sour relations between the United States and Turkey. Erdoğan denounced the warrants against his bodyguards, while the State Department vowed to hold the members Erdoğan’s security team accountable. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu visited Yıldırım and Narın in jail during a visit to Washington in late September.

The plea deal states that Narın and Yıldırım walked into Sheridan Circle and Narın, joined by others, kicked Lusik Usiyan, who lost consciousness, suffering “concussion, memory loss, and dizziness”. Amid the brawls, Narın suffered a “laceration on the face”, the prosecutor said in court. In addition, the plea deal said that Yıldırım kicked Murat Yasa, a protester who had fallen to the ground.

Both men accepted the facts of the case as laid out by prosecutors that implicating them in assault. However, attorneys said they would raise some objections to the prosecution's side of the story, namely regarding the “initial aggressor” involved in the fight. In addition, Narın’s attorney, David Benowitz, said that some of the protesters were supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish rebel group classified as a terrorist organisation by the United States and Turkey.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonali Patel responded that she “disagrees with that characterisation”.

Erdoğan said in September that Trump called him to apologise for the fight between his security detail and protesters. The White House denied it had apologised.