Violence flares in Turkey

2013-06-11 19:27
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses party members in Parliament in Ankara. (File, AP)

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses party members in Parliament in Ankara. (File, AP)

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Istanbul - Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters from an Istanbul square on Tuesday as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would show "no more tolerance" for the unrelenting mass demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government.

Hundreds of police stormed the city's Taksim Square, the epicentre of nearly two weeks of unrest, in the early morning and brought bulldozers to clear the makeshift barriers erected by demonstrators after police pulled out of the area on 1 June.

The police action surprised protesters, many of whom were dozing in nearby Gezi Park, because it came just hours after Erdogan agreed to hold talks with protest leaders on Wednesday, his first major concession since the trouble began.

But the premier made no mention of the olive branch Tuesday and resumed his tough stance against the demonstrators who have thrown up the biggest challenge yet to his decade-long rule.

"This episode is now over. We won't show any more tolerance," the premier told cheering lawmakers of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a speech broadcast live on television.

Acrid smoke filled Taksim Square as police doused protesters with tear gas and jets of waters. Some demonstrators, in helmets and gas masks, responded with molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones.

"Can you believe that? They attack Taksim, gas us in the morning just after proposing talks with us? What kind of leader is that?" said Yulmiz, 23, after waking up to the clashes in his tent in Gezi Park.

"We won't abandon Gezi," he vowed. "I am not afraid of their water cannon, it'll be my first shower in three days."

The nationwide unrest first erupted after police cracked down heavily on 31 May on a campaign to save Gezi Park from redevelopment.

The trouble spiralled into mass displays of anger against Erdogan, who is seen as increasingly authoritarian, tarnishing Turkey's image as a model of Islamic democracy.

Erdogan said on Tuesday that four people, including a policeman, had died. Nearly 5 000 people have been injured.

Read more on:    recep tayyip erdogan  |  turkey  |  turkey protests
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