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DC Court: Turkey Must Face Charges in Sheridan Circle Assault on Kurdish Protesters

The Hill

February 7, 2020

A federal court in Washington, D.C., denied a request Thursday by Turkey to dismiss a civil suit by protesters who are seeking damages after they were violently beaten while demonstrating against the visit of the Turkish president to the Capitol in 2017.

The court struck down Turkey’s argument that it is protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in two separate cases filed on behalf of over a dozen plaintiffs, establishing a key marker to hold Ankara accountable in a U.S. court on civil charges.

The case stems from an incident in May 2017 that took place during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Washington, where a group of demonstrators, mostly ethnic minorities of Kurdish and Yazidi descent, were violently attacked by Turkish security officers outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.

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The ruling on Thursday evening was viewed as a major breakthrough for the plaintiffs to establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over their claims against Turkey and that the judge issued her ruling in direct response to Turkey’s motion to dismiss, without requiring oral arguments from the parties.

“We are pleased that the Court watched the hours of video tape we submitted showing the attack by Turkey’s security guards on peaceful protestors at Sheridan Circle,” said Agnieszka Fryszman, partner at Cohen Milstein and chairwoman of the firm’s Human Rights practice group, and lawyer for the plaintiffs.

“We look forward to proving our claims in Court and to getting a just result for our clients who were attacked and badly injured while protesting against human rights abuses. I am glad the Court agreed that agents of a foreign country should not be able to claim immunity for their violent attack on free speech in the United States.”

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