Middle East

Two US men plead guilty to assault in Turkish embassy brawl

Two men pleaded guilty on Thursday to felony assault in a street brawl in May near the Turkish embassy in Washington during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the US Justice Department said.

Sinan Narin, 45, of McLean, Virginia, and Eyup Yildirim, 50, of Manchester, New Jersey, each pleaded guilty to one count of assault in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Prosecutors said Narin, who was employed as a limousine driver and was not associated with Turkish security personnel, was captured on video kicking a protester who suffered a concussion.

Yildirim was also captured on video kicking another protester, prosecutors said. That protester also suffered a concussion and needed five stitches. He is also not associated with Turkish security personnel, the Justice Department said.

Sentencing for the two – both US citizens – is scheduled for 15 March, according to a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office for Washington DC.

The 16 May clash between Turkish security personnel and demonstrators protesting against Erdogan's government strained relations between Ankara and Washington. Eleven people were hurt.

According to plea deals released by the Justice Department on Thursday, a pro-Erdogan crowd that day "outnumbered the protesters by at least two to one".

In June, US prosecutors charged a dozen Turkish security and police officers with assault.

Turkey blamed the brawl outside its ambassador's residence on demonstrators linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while Washington's police chief referred to it as a "brutal attack" on peaceful protesters.

Both the US and Turkey consider the PKK a terrorist organisation.

Turkey has condemned the charges against its security officials, calling the US indictment bias.

"This is a complete scandal. It is a scandalous sign of how justice works in the United States," Erdogan said in August.

Relations between the NATO allies are also being strained by an ongoing US trial involving a Turkish bank executive accused of helping Iran evade sanctions.

Erdogan, who has been accused by witnesses in the case of being involved in the scheme, has slammed the trial, calling it a “clear plot” by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last year.

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