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Two people killed in Turkey clashes

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-05-23

Two people were killed after Turkish police clashed with anti-government protesters in Istanbul late Thursday. One of the victims was a bystander who was hit by a stray bullet while the other sustained fatal injuries from a detonated grenade.

Thursday’s violence began when a group of some 10 to 15 people began chanting slogans about a 15-year-old boy who died in previous clashes with police and a mine disaster last week in which 301 people died.

Government officials said the bystander, 30-year old father of one, Ugur Kurt, who was not taking part in the protest but who was in the vicinity attending a funeral service, died in Istanbul’s Okmeydani Research Hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head.

"Unfortunately we have not been able to save Ugur Kurt," Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu wrote on Twitter.

>>> Read on Hürriyet Daily News : VIDEO: Group throws stones at police van in second day of clashes <<<

"If one of our citizens, who has nothing to do with the events, is injured by a stray bullet fired by a policeman, I would like to see anyone who is involved in this incident immediately be brought into account," he said.

The second victim died in hospital on Friday. Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said the person had been hit by a fragmentation grenade that exploded among demonstrators, sustaining fatal injuries from the blast. It was not immediately clear if the person had taken part in the protest.

Both deaths are being investigated.

The deaths took place nearly one year to the day after protests in central Istanbul triggered a summer of nationwide anti-government demonstrations that challenged the decade-long rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Tensions high

Television channels showed security-camera footage of Kurt inside the complex of a cemevi, the house of worship for Turkey’s Alevi religious minority, when he suddenly collapsed to the ground in a pool of blood.

At the time of the shooting, police were firing tear gas and water cannons at protesters. Two police officers were hurt as a petrol bomb struck their armoured vehicle and set it alight, video footage showed.

Separate footage showed an officer firing a pistol into the air beside an armoured vehicle as youths with red scarves covering their faces hurled petrol bombs.
Clashes continued through the night as angry protesters hurled petrol bombs, blocked roads and burned tyres to fend off police officers.

Some 400 protesters massed around the hospital where Ugur Kurt died, chanting "you are assassins" and "the murderer state takes another life."

Tensions are high in Turkey with the approach of the first anniversary of deadly nationwide anti-government protests and in the wake of a mine disaster that claimed 301 lives last week.

Eight people, including the teenage boy and at least one policeman, died as a result of the anti-government unrest that erupted in 2013 when police cracked down on a peaceful campaign to save a small Istanbul park from redevelopment.

The protests, which also left 8,000 people wounded, soon snowballed into a campaign against the perceived authoritarian tendencies of the Islamic-rooted government.

The government crackdown earned Turkey a harsh rebuke from its Western allies.

Erdogan expected to announce presidential bid

Sporadic protests have continued against controversial measures taken by Erdogan in response to a massive corruption scandal implicating key government allies, including an Internet crackdown that saw Twitter banned for two weeks.

The mine tragedy – the worst in the country's history – has caused a new wave of fury against Erdogan ahead of an expected run for the presidency in August.

Protesters clashed with police in several cities after Erdogan played down the incident by comparing it to mining disasters from 19th-century Britain, and photographs emerged of one of his aides kicking a protester.

Despite the protests, the corruption scandal and Erdogan's perceived authoritarianism, the premier's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party scored a resounding victory in March 30 local elections.

Erdogan is expected to announce in the coming days his intention to stand for president.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-05-23

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