Turkey protesters clash with police
More than 1,700 people reportedly injured and hundreds detained in three days of anti-government demonstrations.
Turkish police have fired tear gas to disperse protesters marching on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s offices in Ankara and Istanbul on a third day of demonstrations against his government.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Ankara on Sunday, calling on the government to step down.
Some hurled stones and firebombs towards police in the capital’s Kizilay district.
There were also confrontations between police and protesters near Erdogan’s office in a former Ottoman palace in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered for peaceful demonstrations in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, where fierce clashes took place a day earlier.
The demonstrations form the biggest public outcry against Erdogan’s government since it assumed power in 2002.
The nationwide unrest began as a local protest last week against plans to redevelop a park in Taksim Square, but after a heavy-handed police response, it quickly snowballed into broader demonstrations against what critics say is the government’s increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda.
The Turkish Doctors Association said the three days of demonstrations have left 1,000 people injured in Istanbul and 700 in Ankara.
Muammer Guler, interior minister, said more than 1,700 people had been detained in protests that have spread to 67 cities, though most have since been released.
“A large majority of the detainees were released after being questioned and identified,” he said in remarks carried by the state-run Anatolia news agency.
Protesters also clashed with police in Izmir and Adana, Turkey’s third and fourth biggest cities, on Sunday.
The ferocity of the police response in Istanbul on Saturday shocked Turks, as well as tourists caught up in the unrest in one of the world’s most visited destinations.
It has drawn rebukes from the US, European Union and international rights groups.
Helicopters fired tear gas canisters into residential neighbourhoods and police used tear gas to try to smoke people out of buildings. Footage on YouTube showed one protester being hit by an armoured police truck as it charged a barricade.
Erdogan admitted there may have been some cases of “extreme” police action.
“It is true that there have been some mistakes, extremism in police response,” he said.
However, calling the protesters “a few looters”, the prime minister remained defiant, pledging to push forward with the plans to redevelop Taksim Square.
Erdogan singled out the Republican People’s Party (CHP) for attack over a dispute he described as ideological.
“We think that the main opposition party which is making resistance calls on every street is provoking these protests,” Erdogan said on Turkish television.
The government is planning to revamp the Gezi Park and tear down trees to construct a new mosque and rebuild a replica Ottoman-era barracks, which protesters fear will be turned into a shopping mall.
“This reaction is no longer about the ripping out 12 trees.This is based on ideology,” said Erdogan, whose conservative vision for the nation has angered more liberal Turks.
Referring to the planned mosque, he added: “Obviously I will not ask for permission for this from the head of CHP or a few looters.”