Turkish PM,President clash over response to protests; one killed

As riot police used tear gas against protesters for a fourth straight day in Istanbul,Turkey’s president and prime minister displayed wide differences

Written by Associated Press | Ankara | Published: June 4, 2013 2:07 am

As riot police used tear gas against protesters for a fourth straight day in Istanbul,Turkey’s president and prime minister displayed wide differences Monday in their responses to those taking to the streets.

Turkey has seen violent demonstrations since Friday,when police launched a dawn raid against a peaceful sit-in protesting plans to cut down trees in Istanbul’s main Taksim Square. Since then,the demonstrations by mostly secular-minded Turks have spiraled into Turkey’s biggest anti-government disturbances in years,challenging Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power.

A Turkish doctors’ group Monday said one protester died of injuries after a vehicle slammed into crowd.

The protests are seen as a display of frustration against Erdogan,who has appeared to be increasingly authoritarian and is accused of forcing his conservative,religious Islamic outlook on the lives of secular Turks.

Erdogan,who has been in power since 2003 after winning three landslide elections,inflamed tensions by calling protesters “a bunch of looters” and by branding them a “minority” trying to force demands on his majority.

In contrast,President Abdullah Gul took a more conciliatory line,celebrating peaceful protest as a democratic right.

The two men are expected to compete against each other next year in Turkey’s presidential election.

On Monday,Erdogan again dismissed the street protests as being organized by extremists and angrily rejected comparisons with the Arab Spring uprisings.

Turkey’s main stock exchange dropped 6.4 percent upon opening Monday,as investors worried about the destabilizing effect of the demonstrations on the economy.

There was scattered violence in areas close to Erdogan’s offices in Istanbul and in Ankara. Dogan news agency said police fired tear gas at one close to Erdogan’s Istanbul office.

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