Turkish activists reject 'last warning'

2013-06-13 19:25
Protesters chant anti-government slogans, silhouetted by the light of flares in Taksim square, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Vadim Ghirda, AP)

Protesters chant anti-government slogans, silhouetted by the light of flares in Taksim square, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Vadim Ghirda, AP)

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Istanbul - Turkish protesters said Thursday they would remain in Istanbul's Gezi Park despite a "last warning" by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to evacuate the green patch at the centre of deadly anti-government unrest.

"We will stay in Gezi Park with all our demands and sleeping bags," Taksim Solidarity, the core group behind the campaign to save the park, said in a statement, rejecting a government proposal to hold a referendum on the site's controversial redevelopment.

They said the right to "live in a healthy environment" could not be put to a vote, a day after Erdogan suggested a referendum on plans to build a replica of Ottoman-era military barracks in Gezi Park.

The protest movement sprang up after police on 31 May brutally cracked down on a small campaign to save Gezi Park, sparking a mass outpouring of anger against Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

Tens of thousands have since clashed with police in demos across Turkey, leaving some 5 000 people injured and four dead.

"We did not wade through attacks, which resulted in deaths and the injuries of more than 5 000 people, so that a referendum could take place," the statement added.

Erdogan on Thursday warned protesters to leave the green patch, saying: "Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces. It belongs to everybody."

A day earlier, he held talks with some of the protest representatives for the first time, but the main Taksim Solidarity group was not included in the meeting, to the dismay of many protesters.

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

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