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Turkey ‘must be held to account’ for violent acts by Erdoğan’s guards in DC in 2017: petition

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Republican and Democratic members of the Hellenic Caucus, the Armenian Caucus, the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance Caucus and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission are calling on the US government to hold Turkey accountable for the beating and injury of nine protesters by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s bodyguards during the leader’s May 2017 visit to Washington.

The violent acts referred to took place on May 16, 2017, outside the residence of the Turkish ambassador to the United States.

In what became known as the Sheridan Circle attack, demonstrators, mostly ethnic minorities of Kurdish and Yazidi descent, who were protesting the policies of the Turkish president were attacked by his bodyguards during a visit by — and within view of — Erdoğan.

In the petition posted on the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) website, the four groups say they plan to send a letter to the Biden administration urging it to take action and asking US citizens to press their representatives to add their signatures.

“When Congress unanimously passed H. Res. 354 condemning the violent attacks, it made the unequivocal declaration that such acts perpetrated against Americans by foreign actors on U.S. soil cannot and will not be tolerated – that there must be consequences,” the groups state in the letter they plan to send to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We reiterate our position that Turkey must be held to account for the violent attacks perpetrated by its agents at Sheridan Circle.”

In the petition and letter, the cases of Lusik Usoyan, et al. v. Republic of Turkey and Kasim Kurd, et al. v. Republic of Turkey are highlighted as important opportunities for victims to obtain redress for the violation of their rights and physical well-being.

The legal battles were characterized by Turkey’s attempts to invoke sovereign immunity. This position was rejected by the US courts, which emphasized the principle that foreign officials cannot escape accountability for acts of violence on US territory.

Despite legal victories, including a decisive ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and subsequent affirmation by the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Turkey has continued to use delaying tactics, challenging the jurisdiction of the courts and the applicability of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) to its actions. The bipartisan letter to Blinken calls for strong diplomatic engagement with Turkey and urges a resolution that honors the principles of justice and accountability.

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