Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Turkish PM lashes out at protesters

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses politicians at the parliament in Ankara (AP)

Turkish police have detained at least 20 people allegedly involved in violent protests, as the country's prime minister continued to lash out at protesters - and a BBC journalist - he claimed were part of a conspiracy to harm Turkey.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters marched to Istanbul's central Taksim square, this time to denounce a court decision that freed - pending trial - a police officer accused of killing a demonstrator during the anti-government protests that swept the country since May 31. Police surrounded the square, blocking their access.

At least three demonstrators and a police officer were killed in the protests that began in Istanbul following a heavy-handed police clampdown on peaceful activists and quickly turned into widespread expression of discontent with what critics have said is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian way of governing.

Mr Erdogan, who came to power a decade ago denies he is authoritarian, and frequently points at elections in 2011 that returned his party to power for a third successive term with 50 percent of the vote.

One of the protesters was killed by a bullet fired by police during a demonstration in Ankara on June 1. A court yesterday released the officer from custody pending trial, on the grounds that the shooting may have been accidental. But some see the release as proof that Turkish authorities are too lenient toward police.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said police searched some 30 addresses in the capital Ankara and rounded up 20 people with alleged links to "terror" groups and suspected of "attacking police and the environment" during the protests.

Mr Erdogan holds unspecified foreign forces, bankers and media outlets responsible for the protests that had largely subsided until the court freed the police officer.

In an address to members of his Islamic-rooted party in Parliament, Erdogan reiterated that the protests were orchestrated by forces wanting to prevent Turkey's rise.

He repeated his claim that the same conspiracy was at work in Brazil, saying both countries had paid off debts to the International Monetary Fund.

Mass rallies in Brazil were set off this month by a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere. The protests soon moved beyond that issue to tap into widespread frustration in the South American nation over a range of issues, including high taxes and woeful public services.

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