Turkish Anti-Government Protests Widening; 1,000 Briefly Detained

Tuesday, 16 Jul 2013 09:55 AM

 

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ISTANBUL — Turkish police arrested about 30 people in Istanbul on Tuesday after briefly detaining more than 1,000 in a widening crackdown after weeks of violent anti-government protests, lawyers and local media reports said.

An Istanbul prosecutor also rejected the release of detained members of Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group of activists including trade bodies, political parties and non-governmental organizations that helped organize the demonstrations.

Five people died and thousands were wounded during the protests, which began peacefully in late May over plans to redevelop an Istanbul park, but spiraled into a broader show of defiance against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Police used tear gas and water cannons night after night in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities to try to disperse protesters angry at what they said was Erdogan's growing authoritarianism.

The unrest represented the most serious public challenge to Erdogan in his decade in power and tarnished Turkey's image for stability on the edge of the turbulent Middle East.

Police have accused Taksim Solidarity of disturbing public order by organizing the protests. Local media said several student dormitories were targeted in Tuesday's raids.

"We understand that about 30 people have been detained today," lawyer Hasan Kilic, a member of the Istanbul Bar Association board, told Reuters.

"In total, the bar association estimates 1,042 people were detained and that about 40 have been arrested, while the rest were released," Kilic said.

Among those detained last week included Mucella Yapici, general secretary of the Chamber of Turkish Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) which represents some 400,000 professionals, and which supports Taksim Solidarity.

Parliament last week passed legislation proposed by Erdogan's AK Party curbing the power of the TMMOB, prompting opposition charges of a vendetta. The environment ministry has denied any political motive for the reform.

Taksim Solidarity has been declared an illegal group, according to a copy of police records seen by Reuters.

Turkey was criticized internationally for the heavy-handed crackdown on the protests, but police records said interventions were proportionate, with repeated warnings for crowds to disperse before water cannon and tear gas were fired.

The protests have dwindled since late June although police fired tear gas and water cannon on Saturday to disperse crowds trying to march to Gezi Park where the demonstrations first began. There were also demonstrations in several cities last week after news emerged of a fifth fatality during the unrest.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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