May 10, 2018

Twenty people beaten outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington in 2017 have filed lawsuits against the government of Turkey and five individuals after the bloody assault on demonstrators that drew international condemnation.

In a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in the District, 15 mostly pro-Kurdish demonstrators, nearly all U.S. citizens and residents, sought unspecified damages for injuries sustained when they said guards for visiting Turkish president Recep Tayyiip Erdogan charged their ranks. Five other victims filed suit May 3 seeking more than $100 million in damages from Turkey.

Video of the May 16 melee outside the Sheridan Circle residence showed men in suits and olive-green military-style jackets kicking and bludgeoning protesters including women carrying young children and men in their 60s. Victims contend they suffered concussions, seizures, neurological damage, lost and broken teeth and post-traumatic stress.

Analysts at the time of the high-profile violence on Washington’s stately Embassy Row called it another provocation in a U. S-Turkey relationship strained by disputes over the war in Syria, Russia’s role in the Middle East, and a conspiracy theory the U.S. was behind a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

U.S. law generally bars private lawsuits against foreign government, but carves out exceptions including for cases involving terrorism or wrongful actions by governments, officials or employees in the line of duty that result in injury or death on U.S. soil.

In the lawsuit, attorneys recite U.S. State Department and human rights groups’ objections to Erdogan’s tilt to authoritarianism, crackdown on dissent, and the Turkish government’s political and military campaign against its Kurdish minority as the basis for their claims of hate crimes, human rights and terrorism violations. The filings also makes allegations of assault and battery.

“The attack carried out by Turkish security agents and their sympathizers was a direct and brutal assault not only on our plaintiffs, but on a hallmark of American democracy — the right to peacefully assemble,” said Agnieszka M. Fryszman, co-counsel in the lawsuit filed Thursday and chair of the Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll law firm’s the Human Rights practice.

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