Turkey official Yusuf Yerkel wins sick leave after miner-kicking incident

Aide to Turkish PM gets a week off after suffering injury to the leg used in incident

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:22pm


The Turkish prime ministerial aide photographed last week kicking a protester at the site of the country's worst mine disaster is on sick leave after being diagnosed with soft-tissue trauma in his right leg, which was the one he used on the demonstrator.

The photograph shows Yusuf Yerkel, an aide to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, clad in a suit and tie and furiously kicking a man held down by special police forces during anti-government protests in Soma last Wednesday. It went viral on social media.

Yerkel is reported to have been granted sick leave for a week.

A medical report issued at an Ankara hospital refers to "sensitivity with leg and arm movements and difficulty with walking", according to the Hurriyet daily newspaper.

He reportedly told doctors that he had fallen.

Yerkel refused to apologise to the protester immediately after the incident, arguing that he had been insulted and provoked by the man, who is said to be a miner from the stricken town.

After the photograph went viral and received widespread coverage in the foreign and Turkish opposition press, Yerkel issued what appeared to be a reluctant apology.

"I have been deeply saddened by the incident that occurred in Soma on 14 May," he said. "I am sorry for being unable to keep calm despite all of the provocations, insults and attacks I faced on that day."

Erdogan's office issued an initial statement saying that the incident was a personal issue for Yerkel, but officials later defended him, saying protesters had attacked him and that he acted in self-defence.

Erdogan's main political adviser, YalCin Akdogan, wrote in his newspaper column: "Yusuf Yerkel's self-defence against those who kicked [official] vehicles and tried to lynch the delegation has been misrepresented."

He blamed gang members for the attack and pointed an accusing finger at an "irresponsible press" that tried to use one photograph to "make [the protests look like a massive uprising against the government".