Two American citizens who assaulted people protesting near the Turkish ambassador’s residence in the District last year were each sentenced to 366 days in jail Thursday, the first criminal punishments in the May incident that resulted in international condemnation.
Sinan Narin, 45, of McLean, Va., and Eyup Yildirim, 50, of Manchester, N.J., had each pleaded guilty in December to one count of assault with significant bodily injury. They were among those involved in a melee that occurred outside the Sheridan Circle residence during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Fifteen guards for Erdogan were initially indicted in the incident, in which supporters of Erdogan attacked those demonstrating against his government. But since November, federal prosecutors have dismissed charges against 11 of the guards. Charges against four guards remain active, though the men left the country soon after the incident and experts have said it is unlikely they will ever be put on trial.
Neither Narin nor Yildirim were members of Erdogan’s security team, their attorneys said in court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonali Patel said the two men attended the protest to “express their viewpoints” and then “attacked” the demonstrators.
Before the men were sentenced, three victims of the attack recalled for D.C. Superior Court Judge Marisa J. Demeo how they had been knocked to the ground and were stomped repeatedly by the men. Each of the victims said they feared they would die.
One of them, 63-year-old Murat Yasa, said he fled Turkey out of fear of persecution for being Kurdish and became a U.S. citizen in 1987. Yasa said he “never dreamed” he would be the victim of violence for protesting in the United States. Yasa said he suffered a concussion, had a tooth knocked out and required several stitches to his nose. Yasa, as did at least one other victim who spoke, said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I came to the U.S. to be free from persecution,” Yasa said. “This was not a random attack.”
The attorneys for the defendants said their clients had never had any prior arrests, calling their involvement in the assaults “aberrations.” Narin was working as a limo driver at the time of the attack and Yildirim runs his own construction company. Neither man spoke in court.
Narin’s attorney, David Benowitz, argued the protest was not “peaceful” and said his client “lost control” during the melee and “attacked someone who did not attack him.” Yildirim’s attorney, Mark Schamel, said his client “lost his cool” when he saw a friend attacked.
Before she issued her sentence, Demeo said she watched several of the videos that prosecutors submitted that showed the violent clash. Demeo described the attack as “horrific,” and said it showed the men “attacking” the protesters.
“This was so shocking because this was the opposite of our democratic values in this country,” the judge said. “This was a group attack.”
Narin and Yildirim have been in D.C. jail since their arrest in May and, as a result of the terms of the plea, will be credited with time served. That means both men could be released from jail in coming weeks, their attorneys said. A judge also ordered both men to serve three years of supervised probation upon their release.
CORRECTION: An earlier headline incorrectly said the melee happened outside the Turkish Embassy. Rather, it happened outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.