TURKEY

Turkish riot police use tear gas on protesters in Istanbul, Ankara

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 June, 2014, 5:45am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 June, 2014, 5:45am
AP

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Turkish riot police yesterday fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of protesters in Istanbul and Ankara as they marked the first anniversary of anti-government demonstrations.

Several hundred people gathered on streets leading to Taksim Square, in Istanbul, shouting for the government's resignation, when police fired tear gas at the crowd, which quickly scattered.

Some 25,000 police officers and up to 50 anti-riot water cannon vehicles were deployed around the city ahead of the protests. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier warned activists to keep away from the square, saying authorities were under strict orders to prevent protests.

"I am calling on my people: don't fall for this trap. This is not an innocent environmental action," Erdogan said. "If you go there, our security forces are under strict orders, they will do whatever is necessary from A to Z," he said in a speech in Istanbul.

In late May and June last year, hundreds of thousands of Turks took to the streets denouncing Erdogan's increasingly autocratic leadership and demanding more democratic freedoms.

The protests were sparked by opposition to government plans to uproot trees at Taksim Square's Gezi Park and build a shopping centre.

Fanned by outrage over the often brutal reaction by police, the demonstrations soon spread to other cities and developed into Turkey's biggest protests in decades. Thousands were wounded and at least 12 people have died in anti-government protests in the past year.

Ahead of the protests, CNN correspondent Ian Watson was detained briefly during a live a broadcast.

Watson said that police had kneed him and that an officer later apologised.