Europe

Turkish PM Erdogan vows to punish flag protester

  • 9 June 2014
  • From the section Europe
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reacts during a news conference in Ankara June 9
Image caption Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted with anger to the image of Turkey's flag being attacked

Turkey's prime minister has vowed to make a Kurdish protester who took down the national flag "pay the price".

Photographs taken on Sunday showed a masked protester scaling a flagpole inside a Turkish military base in the majority-Kurdish Diyarbakir province.

Kurds demonstrated again on Monday against plans to build a new army base in the area.

On Sunday, two Kurdish protesters died after being shot the previous day in clashes with government troops.

The upsurge in tensions sparked by the deaths and the plans to build the army base are seen as a threat to the peace process.

Image caption The image of a Kurdish protester pulling down the Turkish flag provoked outrage

It began in 2012 in an attempt to end a 30-year insurgency by rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has claimed at least 40,000 lives.

Outrage

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the fact that the individual in the photographs appeared to be a youth did not concern him.

"He will pay the price the same way as those who sent him there," he told reporters.

He said that he had ordered the interior minister to investigate the incident.

The taking down of the flag has dominated Turkish media coverage, with many commentators expressing outrage at the act.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan tried to downplay the incident.

"We do not behave hurtfully toward symbols of any country," he said in a message from the prison where he is being held.

The protests against the new military posts have intensified in the last couple of weeks.

Image caption Protesters took to the streets again on Monday after the deaths of two youths at the weekend

They come just ahead of Turkey's first direct presidential election, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is widely expected to contest.

Support from the Kurdish minority - some 20% of the Turkish population - could be key to his chances of success, observers say.

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