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Senators Ask Tillerson to Hold Turkish Government Accountable for Assault

May 25, 2017, 10:37 AM HST
* Updated May 25, 10:41 AM
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Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State. Courtesy photo.

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, including U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), called on the Trump administration to hold the Turkish government and its ambassador accountable for the violent assault on U.S. law enforcement officials and unarmed protestors outside the Turkish Embassy last week.

“… It is wholly unacceptable for President Erdogan to bring his security personnel to our country and allow them to violently assault U.S. law enforcement officials, American citizens, and U.S. residents engaged in peaceful demonstrations,” wrote the bipartisan group of Senators to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “It is clear to us that both the Turkish government and its representative in the U.S., Ambassador Serdar Kılıç, bear responsibility for the unjustifiable actions of the Turkish security personnel.”

“We write to you to ensure the United States will take all appropriate steps to hold the Turkish government accountable for this atrocious behavior,” the Senators wrote. “We request that you call for Ambassador Kılıç and the Turkish government to provide their commitment to ensure all personnel involved in the assault of the demonstrators will have any claim to immunity waived and be made available for interviews with U.S. law enforcement.”

Sen. Schatz was joined in the letter by U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Text of the letter follows:

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Dear Secretary Tillerson,

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As you know, on May 16, 2017, security personnel working on behalf of the Turkish government engaged in a brutal, unprovoked, and inexcusable attack against protestors outside of the Turkish Embassy, reportedly leaving at least eleven people injured, including one U.S. law enforcement officer. Attacks against unarmed protesters would be cause for outrage even under repressive dictatorships, and it is horrifying to know that such actions have taken place on U.S. soil and at the hands of a NATO ally.

As you are no doubt aware, Turkey has recently taken some concerning steps to restrict civil liberties within its own borders. As troubling as these trends are, it is wholly unacceptable for President Erdogan to bring his security personnel to our country and allow them to violently assault U.S. law enforcement officials, American citizens, and U.S. residents engaged in peaceful demonstrations. It is clear to us that both the Turkish government and its representative in the U.S., Ambassador Serdar Kılıç, bear responsibility for the unjustifiable actions of the Turkish security personnel.

We write to you to ensure the United States will take all appropriate steps to hold the Turkish government accountable for this atrocious behavior. We request that you call for Ambassador Kılıç and the Turkish government to provide their commitment to ensure all personnel involved in the assault of the demonstrators will have any claim to immunity waived and be made available for interviews with U.S. law enforcement. If they fail to make this commitment or otherwise impede the investigation, you should rescind visas for certain Turkish government officials including revoking the diplomatic credentials of Ambassador Kılıç.

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It is imperative that we send a message that this conduct is inconsistent with the values that we uphold both at home and abroad. We are disappointed that this message must be conveyed to a close NATO ally, but our longstanding relationship demands we maintain an honest dialogue and address unacceptable behavior whenever it occurs. Thank you for your consideration and time, and we very much look forward to hearing back from you soon. We respectfully request a response no later than, Tuesday, June 2nd.

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