6 Jun 2013

Protesters present demands to Turkish government

6:06 am on 6 June 2013

Anti-government protesters in Turkey have presented a set of demands to the government as striking trade unionists joined protests in major cities.

Fresh clashes erupted as protesters defied a government plea to end days of unrest, the biggest challenge yet to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decade-long rule.

Police used tear gas and water cannon on demonstrators who ignored warnings to disperse in several major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.

Thousands joined protests to demand that Mr Erdogan resign.

The government invited the environmental campaigners who sparked the protests to discuss their grievances, which stemmed from plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul.

Activists presented demands to deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, including the sacking of police chiefs, a ban on the use of tear gas, the release of detained protesters, the sacking of Istanbul's governor, and the scrapping of the plans for the redevelopment of Gezi Park, which is part of Taksim Square.

Mr Arinc is standing in for Mr Erdogan who is on an overseas trip. On Tuesday, he sought to defuse tensions by apologising for the tough police handling of the initial demonstrations.

Fresh clashes

New trouble flared after a second major trade union confederation announced it would join protests against the government, calling a strike for Wednesday.

Thousands gathered in Istanbul's main Taksim Square for a sixth day early on Wednesday, yelling defiance at Mr Erdogan, who has dismissed the protesters as "extremists" and "vandals".

Mr Arinc's apology did not appease outraged demonstrators who have been on the streets since Friday to protest at the policies of Mr Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian figure in Turkey.

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

The nationwide turmoil first erupted on Friday after police tear-gassed demonstrators at a peaceful rally against plans to build on a park in Istanbul, one of the world's most visited cities.

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

The atmosphere in Taksim late on Tuesday was initially festive, with Turkish pipe music and singing blaring over speakers and fans from rival football teams linking arms, before police fired tear gas and water cannon.