Senate leaders, including Robert Menendez, on Tuesday backed the District Court’s denial of Turkish claims of immunity in the brutal attack on protestors that occurred outside their embassy in 2017.
In an official letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken concerning the sudden, brutal attack, allegedly perpetrated by Turkish security agents that took place in Sheridan Circle, in 2017, Menendez gave his full backing to the Court in its denial of immunity in two cases that resulted from the fray.
The Court, after denying Turkey’s motion to dismiss the cases on the grounds of sovereignty, had asked for the official views of the State Department, the Secret Service, and the Department of Justice on the attack that occurred against peaceful protestors on May 16, 2017, near the White House.
Peaceful protestors attacked by pro-Turkish individuals
The two cases, Usoyan vs. the Republic of Turkey, and Kurd vs. the Republic of Turkey, have been in the court system for the past several years after the events of that day four years ago when protestors took to the streets of Washington, D.C. after a state dinner in honor of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Angry over the Turkish leader’s treatment of Kurds, Yazidis and others, a crowd of protestors had gathered outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence.
A pro-Erdogan group of supporters who had also gathered there broke off the police line and attacked the group of peaceful protesters.
Protestors say attackers appeared to have had military training
Many groups, including Kurds, Yazidis, Armenians and Greeks as well, had organized protests during President Erdogan’s visit to the US, which included a meeting with President Trump at the White House and the gala dinner in his honor.
According to eyewitness reports from whose who were on the scene, the pro-Erdogan attackers were not simple protesters but appeared to be people who had military training.
In their official letter to the US Secretary of State, Senator Menedez stated his full approval of the District Court, which had found that “Turkish security forces chased and violently, physically attacked the protestors.”
“Lawful exercising of First Amendment Rights”
“We urge you,” the letter said, “to make clear the principle that foreign security personnel should not enjoy immunity under the FSIA for engaging in unprovoked assaults on peaceful protestors who are lawfully exercising their First Amendment Rights in the United States.”
Chairmen @SenatorMenendez @RepGregoryMeeks & Ranking Members @SenatorRisch @RepMcCaul of foreign relations committees in letter to @SecBlinken assert Turkey has no immunity for attacking peaceful protesters at Sheridan Circle on May 16, 2017. https://t.co/ZHa01uL4UM #hesaysattack
— Andreas Akaras (@AkarasAndreas) March 9, 2021
The letter was signed by Menendez, who is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, along with James Risch, the ranking member of the Committee. Two members of the House pf Representatives signed their names as well, including Gregory Meeks, the Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Michael McCaul, the ranking member of that Committee.
The full text of the letter may be read here.
Back in 2017, shortly after the incident, the House passed a Resolution,HR Res 354, stating officially that “the right to peacefully assemble and freely express one’s views are essential to the fabric of American democracy.”