Turkish riot police have blasted opposition protesters with water cannons, tear gas and plastic bullets in Istanbul in scenes reminiscent of the summer’s mass anti-government demonstrations.
Some of the protesters on Friday evening threw rocks and firecrackers at police, shouting, “Catch the thief!” in reference to a widening corruption scandal gripping Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Similar protests were held in the city of Izmir, and in Ankara where police also fired water cannons to disperse the crowds.
Police blocked hundreds of protesters from gathering in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square and pushed them away to the nearby streets. At least 70 people have been detained in the Taksim protesters.
At least 31 people, including three lawyers, have been detained in Istanbul, according to the Istanbul Bar Association.
Thousands of Erdogan backers, meanwhile, gathered at other spots showing their support for the embattled Erdogan.
Twenty-four people, including the sons of two former government ministers and the head of the state-owned financial institution, Halkbank, have been arrested on bribery charges.
Media reports say the probe is over alleged illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects.
Three Turkish legislators, including a former minister, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have resigned over the scandal and accused the Turkish government of putting pressure on the judiciary.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party is being directed by “arrogance,” former Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said in a news conference on Friday announcing his resignation, adding that he was parting ways with the AKP.
The resignations came after the Council of State, an Ankara court that rules on administrative issues, rejected an attempt by the government to force police officers to disclose the results of investigations to their superiors.
Twenty-four people, including the sons of two ministers and a state-owned bank’s chief were arrested last week as part of an investigation into corruption in Turkey.
Erdogan has continued to ignore the demands to step down.
“Those who call it a corruption inquiry are corrupt themselves,” he told a large crowd of his supporters on Friday as he returned to Istanbul from a political rally in the northwest.
Erdogan also criticised politicians who quit his party because of the scandal, saying they “betrayed us along our journey”.