Turkish police fired tear gas and plastic bullets at thousands of people who gathered in Istanbul Tuesday to protest the death of a 22-year-old demonstrator in southern Turkey.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people rallied on the outskirts of Taksim Square, scene of unprecedented mass anti-government protests in June, and shouted slogans including “Taksim will be the graveyard of fascism”, an AFP journalist witnessed.
Police prevented the protesters from entering the square, before pushing them back using tear gas and plastic bullets.
The tear gas disrupted a football match between the national under-21s and their Swedish counterparts taking place near the square, the Dogan news agency reported.
Ahmet Atakan died in hospital Monday night after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister during clashes between police and around 150 protesters in the southeastern city of Antakya in Hatay province near the Syrian border, Dogan said.
Local officials disputed that account, saying Atakan had died after falling from a rooftop where he had been throwing stones at police.
In a statement, the police also said the youngster had died in a fall.
A preliminary autopsy found Atakan died of “generalised trauma” and “cerebral haemorrhaging”, Dogan reported.
His death is the sixth recorded in protests since demonstrations against the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian, began in June.
There were reports of clashes between demonstrators and police in other cities across Turkey, and Atakan’s funeral provoked fresh violence in Hatay, Dogan reported.
Atakan was part of a protest against the recent death of another demonstrator.
Protests were also planned Tuesday against police violence in the Turkish capital Ankara, where for several days university students have clashed with police over a municipal project to build a road across part of the campus of the Middle East Technical University (METU).
The anger over the project has raised echoes of June’s protests, which were triggered by the proposed redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
What started as a relatively small movement to save the park eventually drew an estimated 2.5 million protesters nationwide, in an outpouring of anger against Erdogan and his heavy-handed crackdown against the demos.
More than 8,000 people were injured during the three weeks of demonstrations, according to the Turkish doctors’ union, presenting Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) with its biggest challenge since it came to power in 2002.
Demonstrations against a government seen as increasingly high-handed have been gathering pace in Turkey since the start of the new university term, but without the intensity of those in June.
Clashes also erupted in Istanbul Monday, where police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of demonstrators, mostly masked members of far-left groups, who threw rocks and Molotov cocktails and erected barricades.
The demonstrators were protesting over a 14-year-old boy left in a coma when he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister in June.
The teenager, Berkin Elvan, had left his parents’ house in Istanbul to buy bread as violent demonstrations swept the city.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]