Turkish crackdown on protests condemned

2014-06-01 13:00
Turkish riot police officers hold up a protester seriously affected by tear gas as police officers use tear gas to disperse protesters who gathered on the central Istoklal avenue near Taksim square in Istanbul. (Gurcan Ozturk, AFP)

Turkish riot police officers hold up a protester seriously affected by tear gas as police officers use tear gas to disperse protesters who gathered on the central Istoklal avenue near Taksim square in Istanbul. (Gurcan Ozturk, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ankara - A heavy-handed police crackdown on Turkish protesters marking the one year anniversary of deadly anti-government demonstrations earned Ankara on Sunday a strong rebuke from the Council of Europe.

"I condemn the excessive use of force by the Turkish police against demonstrators and journalists," Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, said in a statement sent to AFP.

Saturday's "events add to the list of cases in which the handling of demonstrations in Turkey has raised serious human rights concerns", he added.

Police clashed with protesters in Istanbul, firing tear gas and water cannon at people clustered on side streets, defying a government ban on demonstrations on the iconic Taksim Square - the epicentre of last year's turmoil.

Around 25 000 police officers were deployed in Istanbul alone, as well as dozens of armoured vehicles and water cannon trucks, as police helicopters hovered above.

In Ankara, police also clashed with protesters hurling fireworks and responded with water cannon.

Scores detained

In several neighbourhoods, people whistled and banged pots and pans hanging from their balconies - reminiscent of last year's protests.

Minor clashes occurred in both cities overnight, but most protests died down after activist group Taksim Solidarity announced late on Saturday that the demonstrations were over. Calm appeared to return on Sunday.

Scores of protesters were detained according to rights groups but no official figures were available.

Riot police and plain clothes officers besieged Taksim Square and sealed off the adjoining Gezi Park, the birth place of the unrest sparked by the government plans to raze the city's one of the few remaining green spots and build a shopping mall.

Photographs showed police violence in Istanbul's streets close to the square, with some people lying on the ground after inhaling tear gas and some in blood. Other pictures showed officers resorting to batons carried in their backpacks.

Pressure on the media was also high around Taksim as police briefly detained a CNN team during a live report from the square.

'Whatever is necessary'

"Misconduct of law enforcement officials poses a direct threat to the rule of law and cannot be tolerated," said Muiznieks, urging Ankara to ensure that handling of protests is carried out in compliance with human rights standards.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a hint of the intervention shortly before the protests when he warned that police would clamp down on anyone defying the ban.

"If you go there, our security forces have received clear-cut instructions and will do whatever is necessary from A-to-Z," he told thousands of loyalists at a rally.

Last year's protests drew an estimated three million people nationwide in an outpouring of anger at the authoritarian policies of Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government.

At least eight people died and thousands were injured in the ensuing violence as police launched a brutal crackdown, frequently employing tear gas and water cannon.

Street battles sparked by Gezi Park protests have become a headache for the ruling party ahead of presidential elections in August, in which Erdogan is widely expected to stand.

Last week, two people died in a working-class district of Istanbul after clashes between police and demonstrators commemorating the death of a teenage boy from injuries sustained during last year's unrest.

Police also stepped in to disperse thousands of protesters last month in the western town of Soma, scene of the country's deadliest industrial disaster after a mining accident claimed 301 lives.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    recep tayyip erdogan  |  turkey

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Habana believes in younger Boks
All Blacks ready for a 'hell of a battle'
Barnes to ref Boks, Wales clash
Brave Blossoms: 'Sport heroes of Japan'

Your incisive and innovative mind is on fire. You may be keen to explore new avenues that can help to inspire you. You may...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.