Over 400 people detained in Istanbul clashes

Turkish prime minister takes a hard line on protests

Anti-government protesters shout slogans as they stand on barricades in Istanbul yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Anti-government protesters shout slogans as they stand on barricades in Istanbul yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Mon, Jun 17, 2013, 09:14

Turkish police detained 441 people in connection with clashes in Istanbul yesterday between police and demonstrators protesting against the government, an official at the city’s bar association said.

Throughout Sunday, police in Turkey’s largest city fired water cannon and tear gas at thousands of anti-government demonstrators seeking to enter Istanbul’s central Taksim Square. An official from the Ankara bar association said 56 people were detained in the capital.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared Turkey a country united in a belligerent speech before hundreds of thousands of supporters in Istanbul.

Speaking in a district south of the city centre yesterday evening, Mr Erdogan blamed the global media and an unnamed “interest-rate lobby” for being behind protests that have gripped the country for more than two weeks.

“We know very well who sent 30,000 food boxes to Taksim,” he said and claimed some demonstrators are linked to terrorist organisations.

In Ankara, police clashed with demonstrators around Kizilay Square in the city centre yesterday after attempts to hold a ceremony commemorating the death of Ethem Sarisuluk, a protester who died last week after being hit by a tear gas canister earlier this month.

Mr Erdogan has been the face of the government crackdown against the movement embraced not only by environmentalists attempting to save a city park, but a strata of Turkish society angered by the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) increasing encroachment on public life. Over the last number of years the AKP has jailed dozens of journalists and military officers. And in recent months it curbed the sale of alcohol and contraception. It has also encouraged women to bear at least three children.

Many Turks fear the AKP is gradually introducing a conservative way of life into a society that has been secular for 90 years.

During his address Mr Erdogan criticised the main opposition party for cracking down on religion during the 1940s and 1950s.