Two men were sentenced to one year and a day in prison Thursday for joining more than a dozen Turkish security officers who broke through a police line in May 2017 to attack protesters as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan watched.
The sentences may be the only ones ever handed down for what D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham called an “unprovoked and brutal attack on peaceful protesters,” after U.S. officials allowed other assailants to leave the country.
Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim admitted to kicking a woman and a senior citizen, respectively, as they lay on the ground — as seen in footage that outraged U.S. officials and contributed to worsening relations with Turkey.
Narin and Yildirim — both Turkish military veterans and naturalized U.S. citizens — wore orange jumpsuits. Handcuffs linked to chains around their waists, which clinked when they moved.
Judge Marisa Demeo called the attack in Sheridan Circle near the Turkish ambassador’s residence — as Erdogan arrived following a White House meeting with President Trump — “shocking” and “opposite of our democratic American values.”
But Demeo resisted calls for longer prison sentences.
“The fact that they were placed in jail, they were held in jail, and have been in jail for months serves as an adequate deterrent to others,” Demeo said. “It is a just punishment.”
The men did not speak, other than Yildirim saying “no thank you, your honor” to the opportunity. Both will get credit for time served.
Narin, who lives in Virginia, was working as a limo driver for Erdogan’s visit. Yildirim, his attorney said, drove from New Jersey out of national pride, not because he supports Erdogan or opposes Kurds, who were joined by a few Armenian and anti-authoritarian protesters.
Victims unsuccessfully called for harsher penalties during impact statements, arguing against plea deals that called for one year and a day in prison. Because the men had no criminal history, guidelines called for between six and 24 months in prison.
In pleading guilty, Narin admitted kicking Lusik “Lucy” Usoyan, a Yezidi Kurd from Armenia who became a U.S. citizen. Usoyan lost consciousness after being kicked by Narin and five other men — three identified in an indictment.
Usoyan told the court the incident affects her daily life, making her cautious around other people, easily disturbed by loud noises, and prone to panic attacks.
“I could have been killed, and I ask that you punish these criminals to the maximum extent of the law,” Usoyan said. She declined to comment after the hearing.
Yildirim, meanwhile, admitted kicking Sayid Reza Yasa in the back as he lay on the ground. Yasa, a U.S. citizen born in Turkey, suffered broken teeth and a concussion, and said he continues to have trouble with memory. Because he was over 60, his assailants — five out of six identified in an indictment — were charged with assaulting a senior citizen.
Yasa, a Kurd who said he moved to the U.S. to avoid political persecution, said he was disappointed by the sentences.
“It’s telling the fascist Turkish-Americans here it’s okay to attack the peaceful protesters here, you can kick them. Just 12 months? I’m disappointed,” he said outside the courtroom.
As victims of the attack gathered in a court lobby, a supporter of Narin and Yildirim walked toward an escalator flashing a hand sign representing a wolf, a gesture used by Turkish nationalists that victims interpreted as a threat.
Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, recorded video of the man making the Turkish nationalist gesture.
Attack victim Mehmet Tankan, who was punched and kicked by seven men — five of them identified in an indictment — told the Washington Examiner that “I think I’m not going to protest against them again” because he doesn’t believe there was much deterrence in the prison sentences.
Golala Arya, a Kurdish-American from Iran, said she wasn’t at the protest, but that her husband brought their then seven-year-old daughter, who she said was “traumatized” by the assault.
“What if they killed my dad?” her daughter asked.
Arya said she wanted to give a victim impact statement on behalf of her family, but was not allowed to do so when Demeo cut off victims not directly victimized by Narin or Yildirim. She had not submitted remarks for the record.
“Justice would have been served if the Turkish government was on trial, not two foot soldiers,” Arya said. She would have preferred “at least 10 years, at least” for Narin and Yildirim.
Abbas Azizi, one of three victims allowed to speak in court, and the only one not directly attacked by Narin and Yildirim, said outside the courtroom he believes the U.S. government brokered a backroom deal allowing for most charges to be dropped against Erdogan’s guards.
“Justice did not prevail,” he said.