Turkish police attack anti-govt. rally in Istanbul

Sun Jun 23, 2013 08:44:06

Police in the western Turkish city of Istanbul have fired water cannon on thousands of anti-government demonstrators in central Istanbul.

The attack came as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan criticized those behind the protests, saying the demonstrations played into the hands of Turkey's enemies, AFP reported

The latest protest in Taksim Square punctured six days of relative calm in Turkey's biggest city, although it was a long way from matching the ferocity of previous clashes there and in other cities that began more than three weeks ago. 

"Police, don't betray your people!" activists shouted after they had been scattered into streets leading to Taksim. Witnesses said police later used teargas to disperse pockets of protesters on a main shopping street nearby.

Turkey’s protests were triggered when police used force against campaigners opposed to plans to develop Gezi Park which adjoins Taksim Square, but they quickly turned into a broader show of anger at what critics call Erdogan's growing authoritarianism. 

The blunt-talking 59-year-old, who has led Turkey through an economic boom and still enjoys broad popular support, went on the offensive again, saying an "interest rate lobby" of speculators in financial markets had benefited from the protests.

"Who won from these three weeks of protests? The interest rate lobby, Turkey's enemies," Erdogan said.

"Who lost from these protests? Turkey's economy, even if to a small extent, tourism lost. They overshadowed and stained Turkey's image and international power," he said.

A court near Istanbul said on Friday it will announce on Aug. 5 its verdict on nearly 300 defendants, including academics, journalists and politicians, accused of separate plots to overthrow the government.

On Sunday, Erdogan will address a rally in the eastern city of Erzurum, a stronghold of his ruling AK Party.

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