Turkish Gov't: Erdogan's Bodyguards Needed To Attack DC Protesters Because They Were Too Close When They Said Mean Things

from the welcome-to-the-insult-free-zone dept

A few years back, thin-skinned thug/President of Turkey Recep Erdogan paid the US a visit. He brought his security detail with him, which isn’t unusual. World leaders always travel with security. What was more surprising were the actions of his security team. When faced with protesters hurling dangerous words in the direction of Erdogan, his security personnel decided “when in Rome” wasn’t applicable. Acting as though they were on their home turf, Erdogan’s bodyguards began physically assaulting protesters and journalists covering the protests.

This put Washington DC police in the awkward and novel position of protecting protesters and journalists from beatings. It also put Erdogan and his security officers under the heading of “Defendants” in a federal lawsuit. Erdogan’s off-the-cuff defense of his bodyguards’ actions — that they were right to retaliate against insults targeting the president — appears to be the defense the Republic of Turkey is using in its attempt to get this lawsuit dismissed. (h/t Adam Steinbaugh)

The motion to dismiss [PDF] alleges a lot of things. It claims protesters were dangerous. It claims the DC Metro Police did not keep protesters as far away from Erdogan as Erdogan felt they should be. It claims anti-Turkey protesters injured pro-Turkey supporters. But mostly it claims the use of force was justified.

Local law enforcement did nothing to enforce U.S. federal law making it a crime for two or more persons to harass or attempt to harass a foreign dignitary within 100 feet. See 18 U.S.C. § 112. MPD either ignored or was unaware that under U.S. law, and international treaty obligations, dignitaries are different, and that the United States promises a higher level of security to “internationally protected persons” than ordinary persons, as part of the fabric of diplomacy and international comity.

What kind of “harassment?” Well, it looks like people were saying mean things about Erdogan within hearing distance.

When President Erdogan arrived at the Residence, the angry Anti-Turkey Group, of which several members had already acted violently, continued to tout symbols of PKK/YPG support while yelling aspersions about President Erdogan within an unsafe distance of the Turkish president and the Residence he was attempting to enter.

After some barely-related narrative about how tough and dangerous it is to be the Turkish president in the age of ISIS, the motion continues with its claims of harmful free speech.

Section 112(a) broadly prohibits assaults against foreign officials, official guests, and IPPs, and attacks upon the official premises, private accommodations, and means of transport of such persons. 18 U.S.C. § 112(a). The provision also criminalizes attempts to commit such offenses. Id. Notably, neither intent to injure an IPP nor proof of injury is required to be found guilty of a crime under Section 112(a). See United States v. Gan, 636 F.2d 28, 29-30 (2d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 1020 (1981).

Which includes “harassment,” a term the Turkish government’s motion decides to define with an outdated version of the law it’s citing:

Section 112(b) prohibits, among other things, (1) harassment or (2) attempts to harass a foreign official and (3) the congregation of two or more persons within 100 feet of a foreign official with the intent to harass. 18 U.S.C. § 112(b).28 The term “harass” has been interpreted to apply to “such activities as may seriously alarm or persecute foreign officials.” CISPES (Comm. in Solidarity with People of El Salvador) v. F.B.I., 770 F.2d 468, 476 (5th Cir. 1985). The legislative history of the statute (in its pre-amended form) includes the following example of individual misconduct criminalized by Section 112(b)(1) and (2):

Engaging in a course of conduct, including the use of abusive language, or repeatedly committing acts which alarm, intimidate or persecute him which serve no legitimate purpose

The law no longer references the “use of abusive language.”

There’s a lot to the motion, but the crux of it is that Erdogan’s security team was justified in using physical force on protesters, most of whom were using nothing more than words. The Republic of Turkey will very likely escape being held liable for the actions of Erdogan’s security team, but their actions at least gave more of the world a glimpse at what the country’s favorite response to critical speech is: vindictive violence.

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Comments on “Turkish Gov't: Erdogan's Bodyguards Needed To Attack DC Protesters Because They Were Too Close When They Said Mean Things”

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Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: The No Fly List

So the article talks about how these people TALKED LOUDLY near Erdogan, and his goons beat them. The first amendment issues there are pretty straightforward.

The “no-fly list” you bring up is not a third-world dictator’s attempt to prevent people from flying. No, Turkey doesn’t have a no-fly list. No, that privilege belongs to the United States, where we claim to respect freedom, freedom to speak, freedom to travel, freedom to redress grievance (h/t John Gilmore). But 9/11 so no more rights.

Back to Erdogan and the “no-fly” list:

Diplomatic flights are not subject to our weird TSA rules.
The TSA and TSC do not screen Turkish flights.

Erdogan, a terrorist leader and dictator, came to meet with someone who loves both – Donald Trump. The latter is a criminal in all but conviction who breaks every law he can… because… he can.

There will be no guilty plea here. The Court will likely eschew jurisdiction because diplomat. The protesters will be victim-blamed. Justice will not be done.

What a wonderful world. (h/t L. Armstrong)


crade (profile) says:

but their actions at least gave more of the world a glimpse at what the country’s favorite response to critical speech is: vindictive violence.

The world already knows very well what Turkey’s favorite response to critical speech is.. What we are all going to get a better glimpse into is what is the U.S.’s go to response for someone suppressing free speech using vindictive violence?
It pains me to say it, but my money is on "meh".

Anonymous Coward says:


I know the bird was named after the Turks, and not the other way around, but in Erdogan’s case, it’s a well-suited comparison.

Turkeys have been known to be aggressive toward humans and pets in residential areas. Wild turkeys have a social structure and pecking order and habituated turkeys may respond to humans and animals as they do to another turkey. Habituated turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that the birds view as subordinates.

The town of Brookline, Massachusetts, recommends that citizens be aggressive toward the turkeys, take a step towards them, and not back down. Brookline officials have also recommended "making noise (clanging pots or other objects together); popping open an umbrella; shouting and waving your arms; squirting them with a hose; allowing your leashed dog to bark at them; and forcefully fending them off with a broom."

Sounds about right.

And, heck, they even emit a Sméagol-like noise!

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Re: Turkey

Some English-speaking Turks have been embarrassed by the bird name for decades. Some have tried to popularize the Turkish-language name for their country, "Türkiye"– but diacritical marks (eg the two dots over the u) are a hard sell in English. Better would be to call their country "Turkia," similar to Algeria, Libya, etc. In the Arabic script (also used in Turkey before 1928), the endings are the same. It is already written that way in Italian– "Turchia" (Italian "ch" is pronounced like English "k".)

btr1701 (profile) says:

All those treaties and code sections they cite are all well and good but no treaty or statute is superior to the Constitution, whose Bill of Rights has direct application here.

The Turks’ brief had a lot of flowery language and acrobatic arguing, but it can all be rebutted by the plaintiff simply by citing "United States Constitution, Amendment I".

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Constitution

They’re burying the lede by putting the immunity claim 35 pages into the motion to dismiss. It’s likely that this alone will get them out of the case.

Diplomatic immunity is granted and revoked at the discretion of the US government, and it might be possible to somehow force the US government to not let these people back (or to modify whatever "100 foot" laws are on the books).

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Diplomatic Immunity

Yes, the host government can revoke diplomatic immunity… but it’s never done in retrospect. It’s done with notice to allow the "soon to be ex-" diplomats to get secure transportation home.

Note: it COULD be done in retrospect but no country will do this because that starts the "nuclear option" of "if we do it then they will do it, and then our diplomats are in danger." Since the United States has more diplomats in more countries than Turkey, this is not the hill to die on.

Finally, it’s unheard of to revoke DI from a head of state or his security team. They’d have to commit something a lot more reckless than attacking protestors. Maybe a brutal asphyxiation and then being sawn into pieces and put on a flight. Oops, wrong dictator. And even he still has his DI.


Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Diplomatic Immunity

It’s all in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and it’s subtle and requires the cooperation of the sending country:

Article 9 (1) US tells Turkey their staff is persona non grata and Turkey should remove them or they lose their immunity.

Article 9 (2) If they have not been recalled they lose their immunity and can be prosecuted for events PRIOR to said date.

Article 43 (b) backs this up.


btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Diplomatic Immunity

Finally, it’s unheard of to revoke DI from a head of state or his security team.

Most security teams don’t actually have diplomatic immunity.

When our president travels overseas, our Secret Service agents don’t have diplomatic immunity because they’re not diplomats. They’re law enforcement officers.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Constitution

Sure, you can make up anything you like. It’s just not correct nor true.

Whether they have immunity or not is irrelevant. Immunity only addresses whether they can be punished for their actions or not; not whether their actions were legal in the first place.

Their immunity doesn’t mean the statutes they cited about ‘alarming diplomats’ justify their behavior or somehow trump the 1st Amendment rights of the protesters.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Irony

The irony is that his supporters don’t "get it." They agree with him fully that there is an "invasion" and it’s full of "terrorists" which are all Muslims. And yet, when he meets with Erdogan and shakes his hand, etc. they accept it as is and never wonder how this is.

…And yet when he offers to "meet with Iran with no preconditions," etc. they accept it as is and never wonder how this is.

…And yet when Muhammad Bin Salman kills Jamal Kashoggi BRUTALLY — you know, like a Muslim terrorist would do — and Trump and Jared and Junior all say "Hey guys it’s all cool" they accept it and never wonder how this is.

I don’t think it’s humor. I think it’s an ironic disaster.


That One Guy (profile) says:

It's called an F-BOMB for a reason you know

I don’t know what the problem was, clearly those protesters wear wielding weapons-grade insults, and as such were clear and present dangers to Erdogan.

If anything they should feel lucky the security didn’t open fire and ‘contain’ the whole lot of them, and restrained themselves to just assault in order to prevent an international incident from Erdogan having to deal with a fatal/near fatal wounding of his feelings.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trumpian says treaties are only suggestions

No, they are not. Treaties are legal agreements between international entities and others. They have the force of law.

Perhaps you equate driving 56MPH in a 55MPH zone with a treaty. You would be wrong. The former gets you a possible civil traffic citation, and at best a pass for not going too far above the speed limit. Violating a treaty gets you a lot worse.

It takes someone as brain-dead as DJT to purposely violate a treaty or to threaten to (e.g. NAFTA).

Your statement is wrong on the face of it, and in its interpretation. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. (h/t Adam Sandler).


btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Trumpian says treaties are only suggestions

No, they are not. Treaties are legal agreements between international entities and others. They have the force of law.

But unlike other laws, when treaties are broken– abrogated– they just dissolve. There is no penalty that can be enforced, unless the one country wants to go to war with the other over it.

For example,


btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trumpian says treaties are only suggestions

Also, why does it make one a "Trumpian" simply because they point out that treaties are hardly ever followed?

It’s just the culture here at TechDirt. There’s a certain coterie of commenters here who label anyone who disagrees with them about anything that way.

They think it makes them ‘woke’ or something.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No. Just no.

Not only did the situation not need people actually shooting, if they had tried something like that it would have played right into Erdogan’s hands, because then they actually would have been a viable threat.

As it stands Erdogan’s legal team is basically reduced to arguing that people saying mean things were a threat, and looking like buffoons in the process. Give those protesters drawn guns and suddenly the security assaulting them becomes a much easier sell on the ‘they were threats that had to be dealt with’ angle.

frank (profile) says:

I'm surprised no one pointed this out...but

it would seem to me that the legal arguments made by the defense would be appropriate if they wanted to sue the feds for neglecting their duties — but hardly to justify "taking the law into their own hands." In other words, they are insisting that because the feds were negligent in their presumed duty to enforce privileges afforded to foreigh dignitaries (but not regular citizens), this dereliction ipso facto conferred the right to become enforcers of the law on the security team — which would be a tough sell in any case, but even more so if the team consisted of foreigners.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Ipso facto and other made up things

There is no "defense" and no "legal arguments made by the defense" and therefore none that "would be appropriate".

You just made all that up.

Ipso facto the host country has no responsibility to augment the security provided to the foreign dignitary by his own staff.

Please… if you must invent stuff, especially reasons why the US needs to beef up Erdogan’s security, DO include at least some shred of information that backs up your absurd position.

Ipso facto and all that.


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