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Erdogan says cannot call US 'civilized' after arrest warrants for Turkish guards

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the Civilizations Forum at Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 21, 2017. (Photo by Anadolu news agency)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he cannot describe the United States as a civilized country after American officials issued arrest warrants in absentia for more than a dozen of his security guards over a brawl outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington back in May.

“If arrest warrants are issued for my 13 bodyguards in a country where I went upon invitation, I'm sorry, but I cannot say that country is civilized,” Erdogan said at the Civilizations Forum at Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul on Saturday.

On June 15, a US grand jury indicted 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials, in connection with the clash between protesters and Erdogan's security personnel in Washington. Sixteen people sustained injuries in the brawl.

Turkish officials said at the time that members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and those affiliated to a movement led by Pennsylvania-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen were united in the protest against Erdogan.

The Ankara government accuses Gulen of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated then that the failure by US authorities to effectively take precautions was the main cause of the incident.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Erdogan also criticized US President Donald Trump's policy regarding Muslims, saying Turkey never closed its doors to people who thought differently.

“Muslims in America are facing expulsion so it means there is a problem in the country,” he said.

This file photo shows a view of the US Embassy building in the Turkish capital Ankara. (Photo by Reuters)

Relations between Ankara and Washington have been seriously strained in recent months, and led to the suspension of mutual visa services.

On October 4, Turkish authorities arrested a US Consulate General staffer in Istanbul on charges of contacts with members of Gulen’s movement.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that the man worked as a contact officer at the Consulate General, and made contacts with former police chiefs Yakup Saygilı, Nazmi Ardiç, Mahir Çakallı and Mehmet Akif Üner, all linked to Gulen.

The US Embassy in Ankara later said it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest of the consulate staffer, claiming that the charges against him were “baseless.”

Apart from the allegation of the coup architect, Gulen is accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary. 

Additionally, the Ankara government has outlawed Gulen’s movement, branding it as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). 

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

Turkey has frequently called on the US to extradite Gulen, but the demands have not been taken heed of.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

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