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Turkish police fire tear gas at protesters in Ankara

A protester gestures towards riot police after they fired tear gas in front of a barricade in Istanbul June 4, 2013. (Reuters)

Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds who joined mass demonstrations in Ankara against the Islamic-rooted government, AFP reported.

Thousands of union workers filled the central Kizilay square in the Turkish capital, urging Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign.

Meanwhile, a Turkish protest group demanded on Wednesday that the government abandon plans to redevelop an Istanbul park and that it sack governors and police chiefs the group holds responsible for violence during days of clashes across Turkey, Reuters reported.

Members of the Taksim Solidarity group told reporters they had delivered the demands - also including the release of arrested protesters, a halt to police use of teargas and the removal of obstacles to freedom of speech - to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc at a meeting in the capital Ankara.

Despite Arinc’s apology over the deadly protests this week, fresh violence erupted early Wednesday when police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters in Istanbul and Ankara.

Demonstrators had been trying to march on Erdogan’s offices in both cities and defied warnings to disperse, according to AFP news agency.

Clashes also erupted in the southeastern city of Hatay on the border with Syria, where a 22-year-old protester died a day earlier after being wounded during a protest.

In the western city of Izmir, police detained at least 25 people early Wednesday for tweeting “misleading and libelous information”, state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc apologized to legitimate demonstrators injured by the security forces, a gesture welcomed by the United States.

But protesters remained defiant.

Thousands gathered at Istanbul’s Taksim Square for a sixth day Wednesday, yelling defiance at Erdogan, who earlier had dismissed the protesters as “extremists” and “vandals”. He was in Algeria on the second day of a four-day official visit to north Africa.

“The vandals are here! Where is Tayyip?” yelled the crowd.

They accuse Erdogan, who has won three successive national elections, of imposing conservative Islamic reforms on the predominantly Muslim but constitutionally secular nation.

But the festive atmosphere in the square was a change from the tense rallies of the previous five days. Turkish pipe music and singing blared over speakers as the crowd clapped along.

Even fans from rival football teams Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahce linked arms, united in protest.

The wave of protests broke out on Friday after police tear-gassed demonstrators at a peaceful rally against plans to build on an Istanbul park.

On Tuesday, Arinc said sorry to those who had been caught up in that initial violence.

“I apologize to those who were subject to violence because of their sensitivity for the environment,” he said, though he added that his apology excluded “the rioters”.

“The government has learnt its lesson from what happened,” he added. “We do not have the right and cannot afford to ignore people. Democracies cannot exist without opposition.”

He called on “responsible citizens” to stop the protests.

Two people have been killed in the clashes, officials and medics say, and rights groups say thousands have been injured. The government puts the figure at around 300.

Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party (AKP) first took power in 2002, has accused the main opposition Republican People’s Party of having a hand in the protests.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 5 June 2013 KSA 20:26 - GMT 17:26
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