Turkey cracks down on protesters
Istanbul (AFP): Riot police stormed Istanbul's protest square on Tuesday, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at firework-hurling demonstrators in a...
Istanbul (AFP): Riot police stormed Istanbul's protest square on Tuesday, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at firework-hurling demonstrators in a fresh escalation of unrest after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he would meet with protest leaders. Hundreds of police poured into Taksim Square, the epicentre of nearly two weeks of anti-government demos, warning demonstrators to stay away as bulldozers cleared the makeshift barriers erected by protesters after police pulled out of the area on June 1. The police's early morning return to the square in armoured cars raised the stakes in the nationwide turmoil, the fiercest challenge yet to Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government's decade-long rule. Smoke filled the area as police doused protesters with tear gas and urged them to return to the adjoining Gezi Park as some protesters, in helmets and gas masks, threw molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones in response. The police action came just hours after Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that Erdogan would meet protest leaders on Wednesday, his first major concession since the trouble began 12 days ago. The nationwide unrest first erupted after police cracked down heavily on May 31 on a campaign to save Gezi Park from redevelopment. The trouble spiralled into mass displays of anger against Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, seen as increasingly authoritarian, injuring nearly 5,000 people and tarnishing Turkey's image as a model of Islamic democracy. Turkey, a country of 76 million at the crossroads of East and West, is a key strategic partner in the region for the US and other Western allies, many of whom have criticised Erdogan's handling of the crisis.