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July 08, 2013

Turkish Police Use Tear Gas On Protesters

by VOA News

Turkish riot police fired tear gas, a water cannon and rubber bullets Monday to disperse protesters who tried to enter an Istanbul park that has been at the center of anti-government demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu had earlier announced the reopening of Gezi Park at the city's landmark Taksim Square, but warned he would not allow it to become a point for more demonstrations or occupation.

About three hours later, police moved on protesters who tried to defy his directive.

"We came here after we heard that the park was opened, but now we heard it will be closed again," said Istanbul resident Isil Gecer. "We don't know if the governor is playing games with us. We have legal rights to be here. We have a court order but they still don't let us stay here." 

Gezi Park had been cordoned off since June 15, when riot police expelled thousands of environmentalists who were protesting plans to remove a large number of trees and redevelop the area.

The unrest grew into nationwide demonstrations against Erdogan, who critics accuse of ruling in an increasingly authoritarian style.

The unrest died down in late June, but Saturday police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters who sought to march on Taksim Square and the adjoining park.

Last week, an Istanbul court announced it had halted the government-backed Taksim Square redevelopment project, ruling the plan lacked required input from local residents, committees that protect natural and cultural assets, and district authorities.

State authorities can appeal the decision.

Professional groups representing Turkish architects, city planners and landscape architects had filed a lawsuit last year challenging the redevelopment plan.