July 27, 2021
No Immunity for Republic of Turkey in Sheridan Circle Attack on Pro-Democracy and Ethnic Kurd Protestors.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C.: A unanimous panel of the District of Columbia Circuit court of Appeals agreed with the district court that Turkey is not entitled to foreign sovereign immunity for its attack on pro-democracy and ethnic Kurd protestors, including children and senior citizens, who were kicked and beaten by President Erdoğan’s security detail. The attack occurred on a busy Washington, DC street, and was captured on video and police body camera footage that was viewed worldwide. The Court of Appeals also rejected Turkey’s political question and comity defenses. The opinion can be found here.
Select quotes from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion: 20-7017 Lusik Usoyan, et al v. Republic of Turkey (1:18-cv-01141-CKK)
When viewed up close, we believe the decisions by the Turkish security detail giving rise to the plaintiffs’ suit were not the kind of security-related decisions that are “‘fraught with’ economic, political, or social judgments. Cope, 45 F.3d at 450. The nature of the challenged conduct was not plausibly related to protecting President Erdogan, which is the only authority Turkey had to use force against United States citizens and residents. Our analysis might have been affected if Turkey had consulted with the United States regarding the specific decisions giving rise to the plaintiffs’ suit, see Macharia, 334 F.3d at 67, but there is no such allegation here and, as noted earlier, the United States has indicted fifteen Turkish security officials as a result of their actions. Turkey’s claim to sovereign immunity thereby fails.” (pg. 24)
. . .
In the same way that speeding down a residential street may occasionally be justifiable but is not an execution of policy, the Turkish security detail’s actions may have been justified in some circumstances but cannot be said in this case to have been plausibly grounded in considerations of security-related policy and thus do not fall within the discretionary function exception. (pg. 24)
“Our clients include parents with young children and retirees who were peacefully protesting Turkey’s abuse of the Kurd community when they were kicked, punched and stomped by Turkish security officials – right here on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC. We are pleased with the thoughtful and unanimous opinion issued today by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finding that Turkey is not entitled to sovereign immunity for its attack.” stated Agnieszka Fryszman, plaintiffs’ counsel from Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, who argued the case to a three-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2021. “On behalf of our clients, we look forward to pursuing justice at trial.”
“We and our clients are very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Doug Bregman, of Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday, LLC. “Our clients, while exercising their First Amendment rights, were beaten by President Erdogan’s guards, in Washington D.C. of all places. Turkey needs to be brought to justice for the sake of our injured clients and to prevent similar incidents in the future. The Court has sent a message, Turkey needs to hear it.”
“This result was a resounding rejection of Turkey’s assertion that it has nearly limitless discretion to inflict violence on protestors within the United States. It was heartening to see the judicial branch, and both political branches unanimously reject this dangerous argument,” stated Steven R. Perles of Perles Law Firm, PC.
“I’d like to express my deep gratitude to American people, for building a system that is just and fair,” said Lusik Usoyan, one of the Sheridan Circle protesters injured by Turkish President Erdoğan’s security detail. “Turkey has committed many crimes and has always managed to get away with it smoothly. When it comes to American people we stand out for our commitment to freedoms we have chosen to protect and to enjoy and no foreign government can force their housekeeping on our land and our people.”
“I am very happy with the court’s decision that the Republic of Turkey does not have immunity for its attack on peaceful protestors in the United States,” said Murat Yasa, also a Sheridan Circle protester injured by Turkish President Erdoğan’s security detail. “I came to this country thirty years ago to escape the persecution faced by Kurds in Turkey but the brutal attack at Sheridan Circle brought these injustices to America’s doorstep.”
“I am proud to be a member of the team in this case,” stated Michael E. Tigar, Professor Emeritus (retired) of Duke Law School and American University, Washington College of Law and world-renowned human rights lawyer. “I was counsel in the case of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, assassinated 45 years ago at Sheridan Circle by agents of the Pinochet regime. We obtained a measure of justice for the Orlando’s and Ronni’s family. Once again, the courts have held that there is neither impunity nor immunity for lawless violence against dissenters.”
As detailed in the complaint, on May 16, 2017, approximately 20 people gathered in front of the Turkish Chief of Mission Residence in Sheridan Circle on Embassy Row. Hoping to call attention to Turkey’s mistreatment of the Kurdish people – an ethnic minority population long subjected to persecution and human rights violations in that country, as detailed in a U.S. State Department report. Many of the demonstrators – who included young children and the elderly – were of Kurdish descent.
The Turkish security personnel and their civilian sympathizers taunted the peaceful demonstrators and ultimately charged past the U.S. law enforcement personnel on the scene to attack the peaceful protestors, viciously kicking and beating the group. The attack left many of the protesters badly injured
The victims are represented by Agnieszka Fryszman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, Mark Sullivan, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Steven Perles of the Perles Law Firm, PC, Doug Bregman of Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday, LLC, and Michael Tigar, Professor Emeritus of American University Washington College of Law.
About Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is recognized as one of the premier law firms in the country handling major, complex plaintiff-side litigation. With more than 100 attorneys, Cohen Milstein has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill., New York, N.Y., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa., and Raleigh, N.C. For additional information, please call 202.408.4600 or visit our website at www.cohenmilstein.com.
About Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday, LLC
For more than four decades, Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday, LLC has been devoted to serving the interests of its clients in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and nationwide. For additional information, please call (301) 656-2707 or visit www.bregmanlaw.com.
About Perles Law Firm, PC
The Perles Law Firm specializes in foreign sovereign immunity litigation, civil antiterrorism law, and transnational judgment enforcement. Over several decades it has represented thousands of victims of international terrorism in their pursuit of justice against state sponsors of terrorism, non-governmental terrorist organizations, and terrorism financiers. For additional information, please call (202) 955-9055.