Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's team hailed the filing of criminal charges against Turkish security officials who beat American protestors as a rebuke of those "who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech" on Thursday.
"The charges filed against 12 Turkish security officials send a clear message that the United States does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression," Tillerson wrote in a message read to the press corps by spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "The State Department will continue to work with law enforcement and the relevant legal authorities in the case. When an outcome is reached, the department will determine if any additional steps will be taken."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan oversaw the beating of protestors outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., when he visited President Trump in May.
D.C. law enforcement has two Turkish nationals, but the members of Erdogan's security team who were involved in the violence — there are warrants out for 12 of them — have returned to Turkey. Nauert declined to say if the United States would seek their extradition.
"The State Department will continue to work with law enforcement and the relevant legal authorities in the case," Tillerson wrote in the note she read. "When an outcome is reached, the department will determine if any additional steps will be taken."
An extradition might be difficult to achieve. Erdogan watched the beatings take place and the Turkish government maintains that pro-regime individuals were provoked by the protesters. Moreover, the United States has rebuffed Erdogan's call for the extradition of a Turkish opposition leader — a cleric, living in Pennsylvania, whom Erdogan has accused of responsibility for a failed coup attempt against his regime.
"Our actions will be responsive and proportional to the charges," Nauert said. "Our focus is to work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those who are responsible for the violence will be held accountable for those actions."
Lawmakers in both parties have called for President Trump to order the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador, along with other measures to embarrass Erdogan personally. "This was an attack on American sovereignty," Calif. Rep. Brad Sherman, a senior Democrat on the committee, said during a House hearing. "Quasi-military forces of a foreign nation beat and attacked Americans on American soil. This was deliberate, because Erdogan believes that this helps him politically back in Turkey. We have to demonstrate to the world that aggression on American soil is not going to pay off."