Two Turkish-American men pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of assault and conspiracy stemming from a melee in which authorities say Turkish security officers attacked peaceful protesters near the Turkish ambassador’s residence in May.
Sinan Narin, 45 of McLean, Virginia, and Eyup Yildirim, 50, of Manchester, New Jersey, entered their pleas during their arraignment in D.C. Superior Court.
The men — both supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — waived their right to a speedy trial, allowing their defense attorneys to evaluate the evidence against them before their next hearing on Oct. 10.
“The best possible outcome is that they make a determination that either he didn’t do anything or that, if he did do anything, it was justified, and they release him with an apology. That’s the best possible outcome,” said Mark Schamel, an attorney for Mr. Yildirim.
“The timeline is we have our next court date in October — Oct. 10 — and at that point, we’ll either come to a resolution where they say he’s done nothing wrong and they want to release him, or we’re sending it for trial or someplace in between,” Mr. Schamel said.
Mr. Yildirim is charged with three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, one with age enhancement and all with bias enhancements; and one count of assault with significant bodily injury with a bias enhancement. Age and bias enhancements can increase statutory sentencing maximums by at least 1 ½ times.
Mr. Narin is charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of simple assault, with all charges carrying a bias enhancement.
Both men also are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence — a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison — with a bias crime enhancement.
Representatives from the Turkish Embassy attended Thursday’s hearing but declined to comment.
Both Mr. Narin and Mr. Yildirim hold dual Turkish and U.S. citizenship. They are two of 19 people federal prosecutors have accused of criminal conduct after Mr. Erdogan’s May 16 visit to the White House. The other 17 suspects remain at large in Canada and Turkey.
According to authorities, pro-Kurdish activists had gathered across from the Turkish ambassador’s residence to protest Mr. Erdogan’s policies as the Turkish president’s motorcade was driving by. Several pro-Erdogan supporters — including Mr. Narin and Mr. Yildirim — first attacked the protesters, then Mr. Erdogan’s security detail joined them in the melee.
Video footage of the brawl showed Turkish security personnel beating, choking and kicking men and women. Turkish officers left the country before any of them could be arrested.
Mr. Narin and Mr. Yildirim were arrested in June and ordered to be held without bail. They appeared in court Thursday in orange jumpsuits with their hands shackled. Mr. Narin had a large bandage wrapped around his left arm.
All but two of the 17 others charged in the case have bench warrants out for their arrest. On Thursday an assistant U.S. attorney for the District told D.C. Superior Judge Marisa Demeo that local authorities would not pursue bench warrants for two members of Mr. Erdogan’s security detail — security chief Muhsin Kose and Yusuf Ayar — but instead asked for their cases to remain open.
Mr. Erdogan is expected to arrive in New York City next week to attend the U.N. General Assembly. It is unclear if he will be accompanied by any of the security officials charged in the indictment. Turkish media reported that Mr. Erdogan is debating whether to replace the 12 members of his security detail who were identified by D.C. Police in June.
At a press conference in June, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said the suspects would not be protected by diplomatic immunity if they return to the U.S. and would be arrested upon arrival.
Of the 17 at-large suspects, 15 were identified as Turkish security officials and two as Canadian nationals.
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