Turkish protester dies in day of clashes

Thursday 13 March 2014 00.08
Turkey saw the worst day of civil unrest since anti-government protests swept the nation last summer
Turkey saw the worst day of civil unrest since anti-government protests swept the nation last summer

A protester in Istanbul died from a head injury during Turkey's worst day of civil unrest since anti-government protests swept the nation last summer, local media said.

Riot police clashed with demonstrators in several Turkish cities as mourners buried a teenager, who died yesterday after being wounded in the protests last June.

His death, after nine months in a coma, sparked a fresh wave of disturbances.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, already battling a damaging corruption scandal weeks ahead of elections, cast the latest unrest as part of a plot against the state.

Police fired water cannon, tear gas and rubber pellets on a major Istanbul avenue to stop tens of thousands of protesters from reaching the central Taksim square.

There were similar scenes in the centre of the capital, Ankara, and in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir.

Officers in riot gear chased pockets of protesters into side streets late into the night.

"There were two groups attacking the police and one youth suffered a head injury ... and lost his life," Aziz Babuscu, the ruling AK Party's Istanbul provincial head, told CNN Turk TV.

Hospital sources and local media in the eastern province of Tunceli, which also saw protests, said a police officer died after suffering a heart attack during the unrest.

The death yesterday of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan has hit a raw nerve with many Turks.

He got caught up in street battles in Istanbul between police and protesters last June while going to buy bread for his family.

Those attending the protests said Mr Erdogan's silence on Berkin's death, in contrast to President Abdullah Gul and other public figures who issued messages of condolence, highlighted how out of touch he was with a large segment of Turkish society.

But the turbulent run-up to municipal elections on 30 March has shown little sign so far of seriously weakening Mr Erdogan.

His AK Party dominates Turkey's electoral map and he remains fiercely popular in the conservative Anatolian heartlands after overseeing a decade of rising prosperity.

"Does democracy come with Molotov cocktails?," Mr Erdogan told throngs of cheering supporters at a campaign rally in the southeastern city of Siirt, weeks ahead of an election that is widely being seen as a referendum on his rule.

"The path of democracy is the ballot box. If you have the power, go to the ballot box," he said.

Keywords: turkey