ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Twelve Turkish nationalists detained after an attack on U.S. sailors in Istanbul were released on Thursday but could still face charges for causing insult and injury, local media reports said.
The group assaulted the three sailors on a crowded street in Istanbul on Wednesday, shouting “Yankee go home”, throwing paint and trying to pull hoods over their heads, in an assault condemned by the United States.
The group, members of the nationalist Turkish Youth Union (TGB), were told they faced possible charges of insult, injury and breaching laws on public protests in an Istanbul court before being released by the prosecutor, the Dogan News Agency (DHA) said.
The U.S. Embassy described video footage of the attack, posted on the TGB’s website, as appalling. The Pentagon said shore leave had been canceled for other servicemen from the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Ross, which was expected to leave Istanbul on Thursday.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also condemned the attack, branding it disrespectful and “impossible to view with tolerance”.
The assault appears to have been inspired by an incident in Iraq in 2003, when U.S. forces detained a Turkish special forces unit, leading its members away for interrogation with hoods over their heads.
Turkey is a key NATO ally in the Middle East but anti-American sentiment runs high. A recent poll showed only 19 percent of Turks have a favorable view of the United States.
Reporting by Ayse Sarioglu and Ayla Jean Yackley; Writing by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Ralph Boulton