Europe

Turkey protesters demand dismissal of police chiefs

  • 5 June 2013
  • From the section Europe

Activists in Turkey have called for the sacking of police chiefs in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities over their forces' violent responses to protests.

They presented a series of demands to Deputy PM Bulent Arinc, who on Tuesday apologised to injured protesters.

The crackdown on protests over the redevelopment of a park in Istanbul last week triggered nationwide unrest.

Thousands of striking workers have joined demonstrations to demand Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan resign.

Banging drums and carrying banners, trade unionists marched on Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has been the focal point of the unrest.

There was a similar march by workers including doctors, teachers and bank staff in the capital Ankara, where once again police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters.

In the coastal city of Izmir, police arrested 25 people for posting "misinformation" on Twitter.

Relatives said those detained - young men and women, mostly in their early 20s - had posted as few as two tweets informing protesters of the location of police activity and roadblocks in the city. They feared they would be charged with criminal incitement.

The prime minister has called the micro-blogging site a "menace" used to spread "lies".

'Excessive force'

The deputy prime minister is standing in for Mr Erdogan, who is on an overseas trip.

On Wednesday, Mr Arinc was handed a list of demands by a group calling itself the Taksim Solidarity Platform (TSP).

In addition to the dismissal of several police chiefs, the activists said they wanted a ban on the use of tear gas, the release of detained protesters, the sacking of Istanbul's governor, and the scrapping of the plans for the redevelopment of Gezi Park, which is part of Taksim Square.

"The steps the government takes will shape the events," the TSP said after the meeting with Mr Arinc.

On Tuesday, the deputy prime minister apologised to demonstrators who had been injured.

He said the original protests had been "just and legitimate" and that the "excessive use of force" by police had been wrong.

But he said there was no need to apologise for the policing of the later protests, which he said had been taken over by "terrorist elements".

Mr Arinc's conciliatory remarks contrasted with the tougher line taken by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has dismissed the protests as undemocratic.

Meanwhile Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has reproached the US for its criticism of how the protests have been handled.

He told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Turkey was not a "second class democracy", diplomatic sources said.

The original protests began in Gezi Park on 28 May but soon mushroomed, engulfing several cities and becoming more political.

At least two people have been killed in the unrest and thousands have been injured - including hundreds of police officers.

Demonstrators accuse Mr Erdogan's government of becoming increasingly authoritarian and trying to impose conservative Islamic values on a secular state.

Turkey's Minister for the EU, Egemen Bagis, told the BBC that those who wanted political change should seek it through Turkey's democratic process.

"If people think that this government ought to step down then they should address this question through the ballot box. This is a democracy where public opinion does matter," he said.

Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK) has governed Turkey since 2002, winning a series of election victories.