ANKARA, Turkey (AP): Activists on Wednesday presented a list of demands they said could end days of anti-government demonstrations that have engulfed Turkey, as police detained 25 people they accused of using social media to stoke the outpouring of anger.
In a move to defuse the tension, the deputy prime minister met with the group whose attempt to prevent authorities from ripping up trees in Istanbul’s landmark Taksim Square has snowballed into nationwide protests against what demonstrators see as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
Turkey’s cities have been clouded in tear gas, and hundreds of people have been injured in five days of demonstrations. A human rights group says more than 3,300 people were detained in the demonstrations, although most have been released.
The activist group denounced Erdogan’s “vexing” style and urged the government to halt Taksim Square redevelopment plans, ban the use of tear gas by police, the immediate release of all detained protesters and the lifting of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.
It also demanded that officials — including governors and senior police officials — responsible for the violent crackdown on the protests be removed from office.
The protests appear to have developed spontaneously and remain leaderless. The group’s demands were seen as recommendations to the government for the easing of tensions. It was not at all certain that the tens of thousands of protesters would heed any call by the group to cease.
The group of academics, architects and environmentalists, known as the “Taksim Solidarity Platform,” was formed to protect Taksim Square from development. The protests were sparked by fury over a violent pre-dawn police raid Friday to roust activists camping out in an attempt to stop the rebuilding of an Ottoman army barracks and a shopping mall.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who is standing in for Erdogan while he is on a trip to Northern Africa, has offered an olive branch to protesters, apologizing for what he said was “wrong and unjust” crackdown on the sit-in. Erdogan had inflamed protesters, calling them “looters” and extremists, and refusing to back away from plans to revamp Taksim.
“The steps that the government will take from now on will define the course of the societal reaction,” said Eyup Muhcu, the head of a chamber of architects, told reporters after meeting with Arinc.
Police meanwhile, detained 25 people for “spreading untrue information” on social media and allegedly inciting people to join the wave of anti-government protests, the state-run agency reported. The people were detained late Tuesday in the city of Izmir, western Turkey, the Anadolu Agency said. Police were looking for 13 others, it added.
The people were wanted for allegedly “inciting enmity and hatred,” the agency said. A lawyer for the suspects denied that the claim.
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