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Charges Dropped Against Most Turkish Bodyguards in Clash with Protesters

Charges Dropped Against Most Turkish Bodyguards in Clash with Protesters

USA federal prosecutors have dropped charges against 11 of 15 members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security team who were accused in connection with the beating of protesters during their visit to Washington past year, the latest twist in a case that caused a diplomatic rift between the US and Turkey.

On February 16, during the now-former USA secretary of state Rex Tillerson's visit to Ankara, the two countries "reached an understanding" to normalise ties following a period of tensions over the situation in Syria.

In comments to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials said that the prosecutors in the case were not pressured to drop the charges. The incident sparked outrage in Washington and elsewhere and was condemned by the State Department and local officials. Two Americans pleaded guilty in December to assault in the matter and are now awaiting sentencing.

Police originally announced charges against 16 people in connection with the violent clashes in June.

The US-led coalition is limiting its military operations against the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria as many Kurdish leaders within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have left the area to battle the Turkish forces in Afrin, the coalition spokesperson revealed on Thursday.

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The tension between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies set the stage for Tillerson's meeting with Erdogan on February 14, a day after the charges were dropped. "It's documented on CNN and news outlets across the U.S. Yet he's allowed to bully and bribe away charges for these crimes, just as Turkey's done for a century and more, starting with the Armenian Genocide", said Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian, in comments to the Armenian Weekly.

Mr. Tillerson, in his private talks with Turkish leaders, pointed to the decisions to drop charges-- which hadn't been publicized or announced-- as an example of how the US had addressed Mr. Erdogan's grievances, according to administration officials familiar with the talks.

However, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday that Tillerson had only mentioned the dismissals as an indication of the independence of the American judiciary.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday discussed Turkey's ongoing operation in Afrin during a phone conversation with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

Ruken *Isik, who was present when fighting broke out but wasn't injured, told The Washington Times that clearing the Turkish men of wrongdoing sends a message that their actions are acceptable.