x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Erdogan criticises protesters as unrest spreads

Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, yesterday said he was ready to die to defend democracy and attacked the main opposition party for inciting protesters.

ISTANBUL // The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, yesterday said he was ready to die to defend democracy and attacked the main opposition party for inciting protesters, after demonstrations flared up again throughout the country.

Protesters have fought with police in several cities since a demonstrator was killed at a rally in the southern city of Antakya against plans to build a motorway through forest land in Ankara. The unrest echoed the nationwide protests against Mr Erdogan’s government in June that led to at least five deaths and hundreds of arrests amid a clampdown by police.

Mr Erdogan defended police tactics, which have again involved the widespread use of tear gas and plastic bullets. He said the Republican People’s Party and its MPs have been “provoking” young protesters to stir up chaos, and rejected allegations that he is a dictator, pointing to three election victories and a revived economy.

The prime minister said his government would announce new reforms next week, including measures to meet demands from the Alevi religious minority

Police used water canon and tear gas overnight on Wednesday in a bid to break up fresh anti-government protests across Turkey, media reported.

Thousands of people angry over the death of a 22-year-old demonstrator in southern Turkey on Monday clashed with police in Istanbul, the capital Ankara, the western city of Izmir as well as in the southern cities of Mersin and Antakya.

In Istanbul, the Turkish commercial hub where an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests erupted in June, around 1,000 protesters clashed with police who fired tear gas and water canon, the CNN-Turk television channel reported.

Several protesters were hurt and around 20 were arrested during the demonstrations in Kadikoy Square, it said.

In Izmir, a large city in the west, more than 2,500 people marched through the city centre in defiance of police who fired tear gas, the Hurriyet newspaper said.

It said the crowd shouted “AKP murderer”, denouncing the governing Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party of Mr Erdogan.

* Bloomberg News with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse