Small anti-government protests rumble on in Turkish capital

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 27, 2013 7:49 AM
Small anti-government protests rumble on in Turkish capital

By Jonathon Burch

ANKARA (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in a residential area of the Turkish capital overnight, setting up barricades and lighting small bonfires.

Weeks of often violent anti-government protests have mostly died out in Istanbul and the centre of the capital Ankara, but daily demonstrations by a small core have continued in its recently developed working-class Dikmen district.

The protesters, numbering no more than a thousand, blocked Dikmen's main road with makeshift barricades and started small fires late on Wednesday, some chanting anti-government slogans.

Riot police and water cannon trucks initially kept their distance but moved in to disperse the protesters in the early hours, footage from anti-government channel Halk TV showed.

The images showed police firing at least two rounds of teargas and detaining at least one protester.

It was not immediately clear why the protests, which in the early days of the unrest in Ankara were centered around central areas, have persisted in Dikmen.

Several thousand people marched through Dikmen the previous night in protest at the release pending trial of a policeman accused of shooting and killing a protester this month. Police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse them.

The weeks of protests have highlighted divisions in Turkish society, including between religious conservatives who form the bedrock of support for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and more liberal Turks.

Four people were killed in the broader unrest, including one policeman, and about 7,500 wounded with injuries ranging from lacerations to breathing difficulties from teargas inhalation, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

A report by children's rights group Gundem Cocuk said at least 294 people under the age of 18 had been detained between May 28 and June 25 in relation to the unrest. It said some had been exposed to teargas, pressurized water, percussion bombs and been beaten by police with batons.

Turkey has come under international criticism for its handling of the protests, which began in late May as peaceful resistance to plans to redevelop an Istanbul park, but spiraled into broader demonstrations against Erdogan and his government.

The European Union rebuked Turkey this week, postponing a new round of membership talks for at least four months.

Erdogan has held a series of mass rallies across the country since the trouble started, dismissing the protesters as pawns of Turkey's enemies and calling on his supporters to back his party in municipal elections in March.

(Additional reporting by Mert Ozkan; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Robin Pomeroy)