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Turkish protesters accused of terror links

Government says demonstrators working for 'terrorist' group, as fresh protest begins in Taksim Square.

Last Modified: 22 Jun 2013 19:40
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Protesters clash with police in Taksim Square, Istanbul [AP]

Turkey has charged 22 more people over alleged role in anti-government protests, accusing them of acting on behalf of a far-left "terrorist" group, lawyers have said.

The court in the Ankara charged the 22 on Saturday and ordered them to be detained, the Contemporary Lawyers Association (CHD) said. Three others were released and placed under judicial supervision, it added.

The indictments bring to at least 46 the number of people facing charges over the demonstrations that have presented Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government with the biggest challenge of its decade-old rule.

Erdogan told a pro-government rally on Saturday in Samsun that protest-hit Brazil was a victim of the same conspiracy that he has blamed for demonstrations against his own rule.

"Those who failed in Turkey are now doing their best in Brazil,'' he claimed. The Brazilian government has pledged to act on protesters' demands, which stemmed from bus fare increases.

Hours after the speech, thousands of people gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square for the first anti-government protest in a week. Al Jazeera's Pinar Sayar Kizilcali said the protest was a commemoration for those killed in earlier protests.

Riot police again fired water cannon to clear them, after protesters had thrown red carnations at police before they opened fire.

Tough response

Turkey has taken a tough stance against the tens of thousands of demonstrators who have been protesting since May 31 against the government, seen as increasingly authoritarian and conservative.

The protests, which have left at least four people dead and nearly 8,000 injured, have infuriated Erdogan and have earned Ankara criticism from the West, leading to a flare in tensions with Germany.

On Tuesday, police in Istanbul and Ankara arrested dozens of members of leftist groups in an operation that the Interior Minister Muammer Guler said had been planned for months but also targeted demonstrators.

"The operation, in the works for a year.... targeted the terrorist MLKP (Communist Marxist-Leninist Party), that also participated in Gezi Park demonstrations," Guler said.

In Istanbul, a court on Friday charged 18 members of the small far-left Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) who were among 90 detained in the same police sweep, accusing them of "belonging to a terrorist organisation" and "destroying public property".

Police had also searched the offices of the Atilim newspaper and the Etkin news agency, both tied to the ESP group.

Violent protest

What began as a peaceful protest against plans to demolish Istanbul's Gezi Park, one of the city's last large green spots, turned violent on May 31 when police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

The heavy-handed police response sparked demonstrations that quickly turned into protests against Erdogan's government.

Police moved in on June 15 to evacuate Gezi Park, the last stronghold of the anti-government protesters after a series of police crackdowns.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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