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Turkish Deputy Leader Meets Some Protest Organizers

  • RFE/RL

Protesters shouted anti-government slogans during a demonstration at Taksim Square in central Istanbul on June 4, 2013.

Protesters shouted anti-government slogans during a demonstration at Taksim Square in central Istanbul on June 4, 2013.

ISTANBUL -- A Turkish protest group has urged the government to dismiss the governors and police chiefs of Istanbul, Ankara, and other cities where police have been violently cracking down on antigovernment demonstrations.

Members of the Taksim Solidarity group told reporters that they had delivered the demands to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc at a meeting in the capital, Ankara, on June 5.

The group has also demanded that plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul's Taksim Square be abandoned.

The violent police reaction to a peaceful protest on May 31 over plans for the park triggered days of clashes across Turkey in which two people died.

The group has also called for the release of arrested protesters, a halt to police use of teargas, and for more freedom of speech.

Earlier on June 5, police violently dispersed protests in Istanbul and Ankara.

In the absence of Erdogan, who is abroad, Arinc had agreed to hold talks with the organizers of the original sit-in protest against plans to uproot trees in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

He refused to meet with unnamed groups that he accused of fomenting violence.

In Taksim Square, now a gathering point for antigovernment protesters, thousands of union members assembled, calling for the government's resignation.

RFE/RL correspondent Glenn Kates talked to some of the protesters camped out on the square.

"Protesters, mostly young people, told me they feel betrayed by a government that ignores their interests," he said. "They say they will not be satisfied until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledges their right to be included in the conversation about policy decisions."

He said the protesters feel Erdogan's government "is ignoring their rights. A representative of a teachers group said their union rights were under attack. A fired flight attendant from Turkish Airlines said she lost her job because she protested the national airline's attempts to deunionize."

Many Turks accuse Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) of gradually imposing an Islamist agenda on the constitutionally secular country. They cite as examples the easing of a ban on scarves worn by women in state institutions, and the recent limits imposed on alcohol sales together with a ban on alcohol advertising.

Erdogan has taken a hard-line stance against the protests, which he blames on extremists. He is due to return on June 6 from a North African tour.

In Turkey's western port city of Izmir, police reportedly detained 25 people on suspicion of fomenting dissent on social media.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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