US halts arms sales to Erdogan bodyguards
The US government has frozen arms sales to the bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his aides attacked demonstrators in Washington last May, two senators said Monday.
Senators Patrick Leahy and Chris Van Hollen said the move came after they proposed their own legislation to halt any sales to the Turkish Presidential Protection Directorate.
The move would block a deal by New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer to sell $1.2m worth of small arms to the bodyguard unit behind the 16 May assault on anti-Erdogan protesters during a presidential visit to Washington.
"This sale to President Erdogan's personal security guards should never have been approved, given their history of excessive force," Leahy and Van Hollen said in a statement.
"We should also stop selling weapons to units of the Turkish National Police that have been arbitrarily arresting and abusing Turkish citizens who peacefully criticise the government."
Nineteen members of Erdogan's security detail have been indicted over the daylight attack in front of the Turkish ambassador's residence that saw several demonstrators sent to hospital for serious injuries.
Two Turkish-Americans were arrested and pleaded innocent to assault charges on 7 September. The others, including 15 Turkish nationals and two Turkish-Canadians, remain at large outside the United States.
Erdogan, who labelled the protesters "terrorists," early this month blasted the US indictment of his bodyguards, saying the case was a "scandalous demonstration of how American justice works".