[QODLink]
Europe

Police fire tear gas at Istanbul protesters

Thousands gather in Turkish city to denounce new laws increasing government control over the courts and the Internet.

Last updated: 23 Feb 2014 03:04
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
At least five people were reportedly detained following clashes between police and protesters [AFP]

Turkish riot police have fired tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators in central Istanbul protesting against what they see as authoritarian new laws from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Officers backed by water cannon on Saturday evening cleared demonstrators from the main Istiklal shopping street, some chanting "Everywhere Taksim, Everywhere Resistance", a reference to weeks of protests last year.

Tear gas spread into shops and restaurants as police chased proteters into side streets, in the second such protest in recent weeks, the Reuters news agency reported.

At least five people were detained, according to the AP news agency. 

Battling a corruption scandal, Erdogan's ruling AK Party has pushed through laws tightening government control over the Internet and courts this month, and has proposed a bill envisaging broader powers for the national intelligence agency.

"[Prime Minister] Tayyip Erdogan, don't pull the Internet plug," read one banner among the crowds.

"We are here because we are sick and tired of Tayyip's angry scolding and AK Party laws trying to limit every freedom we have," said Sinem Gul, a 26-year-old architect.

Erdogan's critics see the new laws as an authoritarian backlash against the corruption inquiry shaking his government, which his supporters say is a plot against him by powerful US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who wields extensive, if covert, influence over the police and judiciary, Reuters reported..

EU criticism

Social media and video-sharing sites have been awash with leaked recordings presented as evidence of government wrongdoing since the corruption scandal erupted in December.

The government said the laws - including the Internet bill which allows web pages to be blocked within hours - protect privacy and defend democracy.

This week, Turkish President Abdullah Gul ignored calls for a veto and signed the Internet bill into law, saying he had received government assurances that two disputed articles of the legislation would be amended.

The European Union has criticised the legislation and called it "a step back" for media freedom.

The corruption scandal poses one of the greatest threats to Erdogan's 11-year-old rule and his response, including dismissing or reassigning thousands of police officers and hundreds of prosecutors and judges, has betrayed what critics said are increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

Gulen has denied orchestrating the scandal and his supporters have said they are the victims of a witch-hunt.

379

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.