Protesters who return to Taksim are terrorist supporters – Turkish minister

  Published time: June 16, 2013 12:04      Edited time: June 16, 2013 12:40

Activists returning to Taksim Square will be considered “supporters or members of a terror group,” Turkey’s EU minister told local media. This comes after police bulldozed the tent camp in Gezi Park in one of the worst nights of violence in Istanbul.

“From now on the state will unfortunately have to consider  everyone who remains there a supporter or member of a terror  organization,” EU Minister Egemen Gagis said in an interview  with Turkish broadcaster AHaber on Saturday night. He requested  that all the activists returned to their homes.

“Our prime minister has already assured [activists] about  their aim with the protests. The protests from now on will play  into the hands of some separatist organizations that want to  break the peace and prioritize vandalism and terrorism,”   stressed Gagis.

PM Tayyip Erdogan, who has been the target for many of the  complaints of the protesters, appeared to take a more  compromising approach to the demonstrators on Saturday. He agreed  to postpone the reconstruction plans for Gezi Park (located  beside Taksim Square) that initially riled activists.

However, later in the evening he announced in a speech to his  supporters in the Justice and Development Party (AK) that all the  protesters must be “evacuated.”
What followed was reported by many to have been one of the most  violent nights since the unrest began two weeks ago. Riot police  moved into the Square taking on half an hour to disperse the  activists gathered there, using tear gas and carrying riot  shields.

Turkish protesters rally on John F. Kennedy street near the US Embassy in Ankara early on June 16, 2013, calling for the governemt to resign. (AFP Photo)Turkish protesters rally on John F. Kennedy street near the US Embassy in Ankara early on June 16, 2013, calling for the governemt to resign. (AFP Photo)

Clashes then began to erupt at  different spots around the city, with activists scuffling with  officers. Witnesses claimed they were chased into hotels and  accused the police of pelting them with tear gas even  there.

“They excessively use violence and tear gas against medical  personnel and injured people, they target doctors who voluntarily  support the health units healing the injured,” human rights  activist Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci informed RT  from Turkey.

Some protesters ripped up paving slabs and used debris to create  makeshift barricades to impede officers.
Meanwhile in Taksim Square bulldozers cleared away all traces of  the past two weeks of protest and police took control of the  roads leading up to the square. The governor of Istanbul  confirmed that 22 people had been taken into custody in  connection with the protests and stressed that anti-government  gatherings are banned in Taksim Square and the surrounding area.
Protesters have targeted Erdogan with their demonstrations,  alleging he has become increasingly authoritarian in his  administration of Turkey. In addition, many complain that his  party thrusts conservative Islamist values upon a secular  state.

Separately in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Sunday police  broke up a number of protesters near the Kizilay Square with  water cannons and tear gas.

Officers initially stopped a convoy of mourners as they prepared  to lay Ethem Sarisuluk, allegedly shot dead by police in a  protest, to rest.

Austin Mackell, a journalist specializing in Middle Eastern  affairs, characterized the unrest as an urban phenomenon made up  of secular Western Turks who are used to having a strong voice in  political matters. He stressed that the rise of a  Muslim-orientated government had curtailed their say in  government affairs and warned if the protesters did not unify the  movement would quickly be extinguished.

“There is a real danger that if the Gezi kids don’t get their  act together that what they’re going to do will benefit the  generals and the old-school secular authoritarians,” said  Mackel to RT.
So far over 700 people have been injured in the upheaval in  Turkey and at least five have been killed.

Categories: Escalation / Destabilization Conflict

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