Top Senate appropriators threaten Turkey aid over attacks on US protesters

Congressional uproar over the May 16th brutal beating of peaceful American protesters in Washington, DC by Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s security forces pushed into a second week, with top U.S. Senate appropriators – Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) – threatening to cut US assistance to Ankara if the matter is not given “the highest attention and consideration it deserves by the Government of Turkey,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In a May 18th letter to Turkey’s Ambassador, Serdar Kilic, Senators Graham and Leahy stressed: “We would like to remind you that peaceful assembly and freedom of speech are fundamental rights in this country.  The aggressiveness and brutality demonstrated by the Turkish security personnel are interpreted by many of us as much more than an attack against peaceful demonstrators – it is an attack against these very rights.” The text of this Senate letter is provided below.

Across the U.S. Capitol, 29 U.S. Representatives, led by Congressional Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), called on the State Department to take swift action and hold perpetrators accountable. “This kind of behavior by a foreign security detail is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated. These actions are not only criminal, they are affronts to U.S. values,” House leaders told Secretary of State Tillerson in their May 19th letter.  “Freedom of speech and freedom to protest may be prohibited in Turkey and offensive to the Turkish President, but they are bedrock U.S. principles that must be safeguarded.” The full text of the U.S. House letter is provided below.

Congressional co-signers joining Rep. Carolyn Maloney include Representatives: Don Beyer (D-VA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Robert Brady (D-PA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Bill Foster (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Daniel Kildee (D-MI), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James McGovern (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Bobby Rush (D-IL), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

These legislators join a broad range of Senate and House leaders who spoke out last week for the attack, including Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) who called for Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic to be sent back to Ankara.  Congressman Don Beyer, who has previously served in the U.S. foreign service as Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein, also called for Amb. Kilic’s ouster and signed on to this Congressional letter as well.

“We would like to thank Senators Graham and Leahy, Representative Maloney and her 28 colleagues, and all the Members of Congress who continue to press for concrete consequences to President Erdogan’s brutal attack on peaceful protesters in our nation’s capital,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “These Congressional protests need to be followed by serious policy-level actions – starting with the Administration’s immediate expulsion of Ambassador Kilic, a Congressional suspension on all aid to Turkey, and Ankara’s blanket waiver of immunity for any and all involved in this unprovoked assault.”

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