Turkish deputy PM to meet Istanbul park protest organizers

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The death toll since the start of the protests in Turkey over the weekend has risen to two after a 22-year-old man died in a hospital, injured from being shot during anti-government protests in southern Turkey, the NTV television reported Tuesday.

“Abdullah Comert was seriously wounded... after gunfire from an unidentified person,” the station reported, quoting a statement from the local governor’s office in the Hatay province.

He died in hospital on Monday, the private station added, AFP news agency reported.

In light of the unrest, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Tuesday he would meet some of the original organizers of a protest to save a park in Istanbul which has spiraled into days of anti-government demonstrations across the country.

“There is a need to clearly communicate to remove confusion in people’s minds. In line with this, today we will meet with the associations and representatives of those who opened the lawsuit ... to learn their views,” Arinc told a news conference.

He also apologized to people wounded in the confrontations.

“I apologize to those who were subject to violence because of their sensitivity for the environment,” said Arinc, blaming the firing of tear gas by police for sparking the clashes.

With the latest casualty, the death toll rose to at least two in what has become a wave of protests against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in cities across the country.

Hasan Akgol, a main opposition party lawmaker, said Comert was a member of the youth branch of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), NTV reported.

Police had launched an investigation into the incident, it added.

There were no immediate reports of guns being fired by either police or demonstrators but anti-government activists claimed he was shot in the head by the police during the protests.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing down some of the fiercest protests in his decade-long rule.

His critics denounce what they say is his authoritarian approach to government, accusing him of trying to impose conservative Islamic reforms on secular Turkey.

The unrest, which began on Friday after police cracked down on a demonstration in Istanbul, quickly blew up into anti-government protests across the country.

A young demonstrator was killed in Istanbul by a car that rammed into a crowd during the protests, a medics’ union said on Monday.

The car killed Mehmet Ayvalitas, a member of a left-wing association, when it ploughed into demonstrators occupying a highway on Sunday, the third day of clashes between protestors and police, the Union of Turkish Doctors said in a statement.

One of the country’s main trades union confederations meanwhile called a two-day strike from Tuesday in protest at the government crackdown on demonstrators which it denounced as “state terror,” according to AFP news agency.

In Istanbul, riot police fired tear gas at protestors who burned cars, hurled stones and bellowed angry slogans into the early hours of Tuesday. Similar scenes played out in the capital Ankara.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had already left on a trip to Morocco, however insisted the situation was calming down.

He rejected talk of a “Turkish Spring” uprising by Turks who accuse him of trying to impose Islamic reforms on the secular state.

The clashes, which have rocked scores of cities across Turkey, entered a fifth day Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey’s biggest cities over the weekend and clashed with riot police firing tear gas, leaving hundreds of people injured.

“This is a protest organized by extremist elements,” Erdogan said.

“The fact the AK Party has increased its votes at three elections in a row and has successfully won two referendums, shows how the people of this nation have embraced the AK Party.”

Protesters on Sunday branded Erdogan a “dictator” and called for his resignation.

“Dictator, resign!... We will resist until we win,” yelled the crowds, in the latest of a string of protests that have by some accounts left hundreds injured.

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