Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday responded to criticisms that police used excessive force against a group of students at Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) in Ankara during their demonstration against him earlier this week, saying the protest was violence-based.
Erdoğan said during a speech at a meeting of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) in İstanbul that the protest cannot be accepted as an ordinary one as it relied on violent methods.
A group of students at ODTÜ on Tuesday protested a visit by Erdoğan, who had gone to the university to attend a ceremony to watch the broadcasted launch of Göktürk-2, Turkey's second domestically made Earth observation satellite, from China. Police were the subject of severe criticism for using excessive force against the students, reportedly using pepper gas and water cannons against the protesting students to prevent them from approaching the ceremony hall.
“They burned tires on the campus. … They had Molotov cocktails in their bags,” Erdoğan said, noting that many of the protestors were not even students but were linked to terrorist groups.
“They [critics] say this was a protest. Excuse me, we were also students but we did not have stones and sticks [in our hands],” Erdoğan said.
Complaining that the protest was covered in the media more than the launch of Göktürk-2, Erdoğan also criticized the teachers of the protestors. “If you are raising this kind of student, shame on you,” Erdoğan said.
Ten students in Ankara were detained in connection with the protest on Friday.
The Ankara Police Department in a statement on Friday dismissed claims that its officers had used excessive force against the protesters. The department blamed on the university's rector, saying it was the private security guards employed by the rector who had allowed students from other universities to attend without fully searching them. “A group of 500 students who had covered themselves with berets, hats, scarves and hoods in order not to be identified attacked the police with stones, Molotov cocktails, batons and soda bottles,” the department's statement read, adding that 15 police officers had sustained injuries during the clashes.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin admitted that police officers sometimes use a disproportionate amount of force and are being rightly criticized.