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Turkish Police Disperse Istanbul Opposition Protest, Several Injured

  • VOA News

Turkish police have fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters in central Istanbul, injuring and detaining several demonstrators.

The opposition activists tried to march toward Istanbul's Taksim Square and its adjacent Gezi Park on Saturday evening in response to a protest call on social media, but a heavy police presence on the streets blocked their path.

The French news agency said one of its photographers was injured by rubber bullets as Turkish police fired on the demonstrators.

The activists have held sporadic protests in Turkey's commercial capital in recent weeks in a bid to revive a series of mass anti-government demonstrations that took place in June. Those rallies began as an angry public response to government plans to redevelop Gezi Park, but quickly widened into nationwide protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Five people were killed and thousands were injured in June's unrest.

Many secular Turks complain about what they see as the increasingly authoritarian rule of Erdogan's Islamist-rooted party, which has won several elections since taking office in 2002.

Erdogan made another move to strengthen his influence over the Turkish armed forces on Saturday, chairing a Supreme Military Council meeting that appointed top commanders of the formerly all-powerful institution.

In a key move, the Erdogan-led council forced the retirement of gendarmerie force commander General Bekir Kalyoncu, who had been expected to receive a promotion to land forces chief. Kalyoncu's name recently appeared in court testimony at a trial of secular activists suspected of plotting to oust Mr. Erdogan's government.

The Supreme Military Council instead named General Hulusi Akar as land forces commander, a post that puts him in line for customary promotion to Turkish chief of staff in 2015. The council also named new commanders of the Turkish navy and air force on Saturday.

A verdict in the trial of the 275 alleged coup plotters is expected on Monday. One of them is a former Turkish chief of staff.

The secular-dominated Turkish military staged several coups in past decades, including a 1997 move to push the country's first Islamist-led government out of office.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.