Middle East

Police, protesters clash in Turkey, man seriously hurt

A masked man throws a Molotov cocktail as riot police use water cannons and teargas to disperse people who were protesting the Soma mine disaster that killed 301 miners, in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

ISTANBUL: Turkish riot police on Thursday fired tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators in Istanbul hurling stones and petrol bombs in the latest in a string of protests fueled by rising anger against the government.

A senior official said a man was shot and wounded in the head after he reportedly attended a funeral near the site of the protest in the Turkish commercial hub.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said a bullet lodged in the man's head as well as guns used by the police would be examined by prosecutors appointed to investigate the incident.

Huseyin Avni Mutlu, the governor of Istanbul, told reporters earlier that "I have been informed that police were attacked by Molotov cocktails and a 30-year-old man was injured."

The governor added that a gun had been used in the incident but did not elaborate.

Private Dogan news agency published the picture of a man lying on the ground with a pool of blood around his head in the Okmeydani district of the city, the scene of sporadic clashes.

Dogan said police fired tear gas and water cannon at up to 20 protesters who denounced the death of a teenage boy who fell into a coma during anti-government unrest last year. They also protested last week's mine disaster in the eastern Turkish city of Soma.

The news agency said the police also fired gunshots into the air, but an eyewitness who did not give his name told AFP that police fired live bullets at the crowd.

Video footage showed the man, reportedly attending a funeral ceremony nearby, falling to the ground with an apparent head wound. The victim was taken to the hospital in a serious condition.

Demonstrators responded to the tear gas and water cannon by hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at police and setting fire to an armoured police vehicle, Dogan said.

Police also intervened twice when protesters attempted to march toward the hospital where the wounded man was being treated, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Around 400 demonstrators later staged a sit-in outside the hospital, chanting slogans: "Murderer state has taken another life."

Tensions are high in Turkey with the approach of the first anniversary of deadly nationwide anti-government protests and in the wake of an unprecedented mine disaster that claimed 301 lives last week.

Eight people, including the teenage boy and at least one policeman, died as a result of the anti-government unrest last year that erupted when police cracked down heavily on a peaceful campaign to save a small Istanbul park from redevelopment.

The protests, which also left 8,000 people wounded, soon snow-balled into a campaign against the perceived authoritarian tendencies of the Islamic-rooted government.

The government crackdown earned Turkey a harsh rebuke from its Western allies.

Sporadic protests have continued against controversial measures taken by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in response to a massive corruption scandal implicating key government allies, including an Internet crackdown that saw Twitter banned for two weeks.

The mine tragedy -- the worst in the country's history -- has caused a new wave of fury against Erdogan ahead of an expected run for the presidency in August.

Protesters clashed with police in several cities after Erdogan played down the incident by comparing it to mining disasters from 19th-century Britain and photographs of one of his aides kicking a protester emerged.

Despite the protests, the corruption scandal and Erdogan's perceived authoritarianism, the premier's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party scored a resounding victory in March 30 local elections.





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