Pascrell to Trump: Turkish Bodyguards Should be Brought to Justice
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) wrote a letter to President Donald Trump requesting he directly confront Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's about the members of his security detail who attacked peaceful protestors on May 16, 2017. President Trump will be meeting with President Erdoğan at the United Nations this week.
“As a free nation of laws, upholding the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution that allow citizens to peacefully demonstrate is a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Rep. Pascrell. “It is critical we impress the importance of the democratic values of free speech and peaceful assembly, equal treatment of justice and the rule of law. That is why it is imperative you confront President Erdoğan directly about this incident and the charges being brought against his security detail.”
Earlier this year, President Erdoğan’s bodyguards were caught on video brutally attacking protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. Rep. Pascrell has twice met with a constituent who was choked by one of the bodyguards.
In May, Rep. Pascrell joined colleagues, led by U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), on a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to arrest, prosecute, and jail these members of President Erdogan’s security detail. In June, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res.354, which condemned the violence against the peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador's residence, called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, and measures to be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Since the incident occurred, nineteen people have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury for attacking the peaceful protesters, including 15 of President Erdoğan’s security guards.
The full text of the letter to President Trump is below.
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Trump:
In light of recent reports you plan to speak with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly, I urge you to confront him about the violent attack on protesters by members of his security detail during his official visit to the United States.
As you know, on May 16 American citizens and legal residents gathered lawfully and peacefully across the street from the Turkish Chief of Mission Residence to protest President Erdoğan and his administration. Several members of President Erdoğan’s security detail physically assaulted multiple individuals, leaving several bloodied and bruised. These actions are unacceptable in any situation, and are an affront to our American values and core democratic freedoms of free speech and peaceful assembly.
As a free nation of laws, upholding the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution that allow citizens to peacefully demonstrate is a cornerstone of our democracy. In the wake of this incident the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res.354, which condemned the violence against these protesters and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. The Superior Court of Washington, D.C. indicted 15 members of President Erdoğan’s security forces and four others for kicking, choking, and beating protesters. All 19 individuals have been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison with a hate crime enhancement that could multiply a sentence by one-and-a-half times. Some of these individuals also face assault charges, including simple assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, or both.
However, several of the defendants remain at large and, as a result, will not face these charges. After the incident occurred, it was reported that many members of the security detail involved fled the United States.
As the representative of New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District, which is home to a large and thriving Turkish-American community, I cherish our historically close relationship with Turkey, one of the healthiest democratic systems in the region. It is critical we impress the importance of the democratic values of free speech and peaceful assembly, equal treatment of justice and the rule of law. That is why it is imperative you confront President Erdoğan directly about this incident and the charges being brought against his security detail.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress