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Kurdish protester injured in clashes with Turkey police dies
Agence France Presse
A woman, who has been exposed to tear gas, cries during clashes with Turkish police on December 8, 2013 in Diyarbakir. AFP PHOTO / MEHMET ENGIN
A woman, who has been exposed to tear gas, cries during clashes with Turkish police on December 8, 2013 in Diyarbakir. AFP PHOTO / MEHMET ENGIN
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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: A Kurdish protester who was seriously wounded during fierce weekend clashes with police in southeast Turkey died of his injuries in hospital on Wednesday, medics said.

Bemal Topcu, 25, was allegedly struck on the head by a tear gas canister fired by Turkish riot police during demonstrations in the town of Yuksekova on Saturday.

Tensions have been on the rise in the Kurdish-dominated region since two protesters were shot dead by police in clashes in Yuksekova on Friday night, which were sparked by claims that Kurdish rebel cemeteries had been destroyed.

The violence led to weekend demos in several towns as well as Turkey's biggest city Istanbul.

Around a dozen people, including four policemen, were injured in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir alone, and at least 22 protesters were arrested, according to press reports.

The new upsurge of violence has threatened the fragile peace process between the Turkish state and the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which declared a ceasefire in March following secret talks with the country's spy agency.

The process came to a standstill after Kurdish rebels announced in September they were suspending their retreat from Turkish soil, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promised reforms.

The PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, launched an insurgency seeking self-rule in the southeast in 1984 that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

In a statement from his prison cell, jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan denounced the deaths of the two protesters as a "great provocation" against the peace process.

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