Two men involved in a May altercation outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty to assault on Thursday morning in a D.C. court, the Ahval news website reported.
Eyüp Yıldırım of Manchester, New Jersey, and Sinan Narin of McLean, Virginia, said in court they agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors after initially pleading not guilty in September. The two were arrested within days of each other in June after being charged with taking part in violent attacks on demonstrators who were protesting the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan across from the ambassador’s residence.
The two likely face a year in prison under the plea bargain. A sentencing hearing, where victims will have a chance to speak, has been scheduled for March 15.
Yıldırım, 50, and Narin, 45, pleaded guilty to one count of assault with significant bodily injury, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of up to $12,500, the judge said.
Nine protesters were injured in a brawl when “Erdoğan supporters and Turkish security personnel” attacked demonstrators on Sheridan Circle on May 16, according to case documents. The dozen individuals gathered outside the residence chanted anti-Erdoğan and pro-Kurdish messages, court documents say.
Video footage shows the events had occurred in view of Erdoğan, who pulled up to the residence with his security detail after meeting with President Donald Trump earlier in the day. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has charged 19 people, 15 of them Erdoğan’s bodyguards. Two of the defendants were arrested after the fight, while the rest remain at large. All were with charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
This case is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department and prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Erdoğan denounced the warrants against his bodyguards, while the US State Department vowed to hold the suspects from Erdoğan’s security team accountable. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Yıldırım and Narin in jail during a trip to Washington in late September.
Court documents detail the attacks, which included two Turkish bodyguards punching and kicking an Iranian Kurd on Sheridan Circle. The plea deal states that Narin and Yıldırım walked into Sheridan Circle and Narin, joined by others, kicked Lusik Usiyan, who lost consciousness, suffering a “concussion, memory loss, and dizziness.” In the midst of the brawl, Narin suffered a “laceration on the face,” the prosecutor said in court. In addition, the plea deal says that Yıldırım kicked Murat Yasa, a protester who had fallen to the ground.
Both men accepted the facts of the case as laid out by prosecutors that implicate them in the assault. However, attorneys said they would raise some objections to the prosecution’s side of the story, namely regarding the “initial aggressor” involved in the fight. In addition, Narin’s attorney, David Benowitz, said that some of the protestors were supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish group classified as a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union and Turkey.
Assistant US Attorney Sonali Patel responded that she “disagrees with that characterization.”
Turkish President Erdoğan said in September that President Trump called him to apologize for the fight between his security and protestors in D.C. in May. The White House denied it had apologized for the brawl.