12 Jun 2013

New clashes in Istanbul

8:59 am on 12 June 2013

Riot police and protesters have clashed again in one of the worst days of fighting at Taksim Square in Instanbul.

Police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters retaliated with petrol bombs and stones.

Police earlier removed banners which had been hung from a building overlooking Taksim Square

They replaced them with the national flag and a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turkish state.

Mayor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said the police operation will continue day and night until it the square is cleared, and warned people to stay away for their own safety.

The square has been the centre of protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for the past 10 days.

Tolerance at an end warns PM

Mr Erdogan warned on Tuesday that he will not show "any more tolerance" for protests.

He vowed to end the demonstrations after police cleared Istanbul's Taksim Square, the focal point of unrest for nearly two weeks.

The BBC reports the demonstrators accusing Mr Erdogan's government of becoming increasingly authoritarian and trying to impose conservative Islamic values on a secular state.

The prime minister defended the police intervention on Tuesday, saying that an environmental movement had been hijacked by people who wanted to harm Turkey.

In a televised speech from the AK Party headquarters to members of parliament that was frequently interrupted by applause, he asked:

"They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen? Were we going to kneel down in front of these [people]?

"If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change."

The BBC reports he also appeared to contradict Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu, who earlier said the police had no intention of breaking up the protest in Gezi Park.

"To those who ... are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love.

"But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over.' As of now we have no tolerance for them.

"Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no-one will get away with it," he continued.

"I am sorry, but Gezi Park is for taking promenades, not for occupation."