Erdoğan hails Turkish police, says they were unfairly targeted

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses the mayors from his ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, on June 13, 2013. (Photo: Cihan, Mevlüt Karabulut)

June 24, 2013, Monday/ 12:17:00

The Turkish prime minister has leveled harsh criticism against those who slammed the heavy-handed police crackdown on protests that have swept Turkey in the last few weeks, saying that the police have “successfully passed the test of democracy.”

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed on Monday in a speech at the graduation ceremony of a police academy that protests linked to Gezi Park near İstanbul's famed Taksim Square targeted Turkish police in a systematic and deliberate fashion but that his government would not allow “international circles” to disparage the police.

He slammed the European Parliament for adopting a decision last week rebuking Turkey for its handling of the protests. “Instead of teaching us a lesson, go read the EU acquis,” Erdoğan said, criticizing the European body for remaining indifferent to police crackdowns on protests in Greece, Germany and Britain.

“Starting from the very beginning of the protests, our police were targeted. Via the police, the government, our democracy and national will were targeted. Some national and international media [outlets] and [foreign] parliaments targeted our police as well,” he said.

The prime minister said the police force never engaged in undemocratic practices or limited people's freedoms as it intervened in the protests. He noted that the police successfully performed their duties in line with orders from their superiors and the law. “Our police passed a tough test of democracy successfully. They stood against attacks and provocations that would not be tolerated in some other countries; in a way they wrote an epic story,” Erdoğan said and added, “Only our police could keep going in such a long-lasting struggle without losing their dignity and discipline and by lasting 48 hours straight without food or water.”

Recalling his government's zero tolerance for torture, Erdoğan said the government would do whatever was necessary when the police force makes a mistake. The prime minister highlighted that the police force had proved its patience and restraint during the recent protests. He argued that the protesters were shown as calm and environment-loving people and the police were criticized for engaging in excessive violence, while the opposite was true. He added that he would share the footage of abuse towards the police in the coming days with the public.

Tens of thousands of Turks joined nationwide protests following a police crackdown on participants in a peaceful sit-in in İstanbul's Gezi Park near Taksim Square on May 31. The protesters express discontent with Prime Minister Erdoğan's 10-year rule and his government's plans to build a replica of the Topçu Barracks in the park as part of the Taksim rejuvenation project. Five people, including a policeman, have died and more than 5,000 have been injured in the clashes, according to a Turkish rights group. From the beginning of the protests, the police have been strongly criticized for using pepper spray and tear gas to intervene in the ongoing Gezi Park protests.


Police reportedly beat 3 in Antalya parking lot for attending Gezi protests

Video footage recently made public shows a group of police officers beating three young people in an underground parking lot, allegedly for attending a Gezi Park protest in Antalya province on June 2.

The incident took place at 2:40 a.m. on June 2 in the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality's parking lot. The three young people in the video had reportedly fled from police intervention at a demonstration in Antalya held to support the protests over a plan to demolish Taksim's Gezi Park in İstanbul, taking shelter in the parking lot. Some time later, about 17 police officers came to the parking lot and began beating the demonstrators with batons. The footage, which was recently made public by the media, has caused public outrage.

The Contemporary Jurists' Association (ÇHD) is now preparing to file a complaint regarding the incident. Speaking to reporters, Deputy President of the ÇHD Munip Ermiş said: “We heard that some demonstrators were assaulted by police officers in the parking lot, so we requested the security footage from the parking lot management. By doing this, we revealed the violence that the demonstrators were exposed to in the parking lot.”

Ermiş stated that the footage appears to show police assaulting the demonstrators even though they did not put up any resistance, adding: “This is a crime against humanity. Now we are trying to determine the identity of the demonstrators and we are trying to find out what happened to them following the incident.” Today's Zaman, İstanbul

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