Fifteen victims of last May's brawl outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., filed a civil suit on Thursday against the Turkish government, as well as two Americans and three Canadians involved in the skirmish, according to a press release.
The victims, who were protesting Turkey's treatment of ethnic Kurds when they were attacked by security forces working for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accuse Turkey's government as well as the five American and Canadians involved of "violations of international law and hate crimes, as well as assault, battery and false imprisonment."
The suit follows five other victims who filed a similar suit in early May, as reported by The Washington Post. Video of last year's incident shows guards attacking the group of protesters, which according to the release included the elderly and children.
In March, prosecutors announced that they were dropping charges against 11 of the 15 Erdoğan bodyguards. The embassy claims the security officials were acting in self-defense, and accused the protesters of being affiliated with the terrorist group PKK.
“It’s tragic that the Turkish government can get away with attacking protestors in Turkey, but when Turkish security personnel engage in a coordinated attack against a small group of peaceful demonstrators in our nation’s capital, the Turkish government and those that assisted it must be held accountable," victims' attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan said in the release.
Murat Yasa, a 62-year-old ethnic Kurd who was attacked in the 2017 incident, says in the release that he fled to the U.S. to escape Turkish persecution only to have it follow him to American soil.
“We cannot allow our fundamental freedoms to be undermined by those who use violence and intimidation to silence our voices, and the Turkish government and its sympathizers must be held accountable for their actions,” Yasa said.
In a statement last year, Turkey's foreign ministry blamed the brawl on a failure by U.S. security forces, and said the arrest of Erdoğan's bodyguards was “wrong, biased and lack[ed] legal basis."
“That the brawl in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence was caused by the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures; that this incident would not have occurred if the US authorities had taken the usual measures they take in similar high level visits and therefore that Turkish citizens cannot be held responsible for the incident that took place,” the ministry's statement read.
Local D.C. officials and police described the brawl as a violent attack on peaceful demonstrators.