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Turkish Protesters Clash with Police into Early Hours

Protesters in Istanbul

Ankara – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused anti-government protesters on Monday of walking “arm-in-arm with terrorism”, remarks that could further inflame public anger after three days of some of the most violent riots in decades. Hundreds of police and protesters have been injured since Friday in the riots, which began with a demonstration to halt construction in a park in an Istanbul square and grew into mass protests against what opponents call Erdogan’s authoritarianism.

He has dismissed the protests as the work of secularist enemies who never reconciled to the mandate of his Islamist AKP party, which has won three straight elections, overseen an economic boom and raised Turkey’s profile in the region. “This is a protest organized by extremist elements,” Erdogan said at a news conference before departing on a trip to North Africa. “We will not give away anything to those who live arm in arm with terrorism.”

“Many things have happened in this country, they’ve hanged, they’ve poisoned, but we will walk towards the future with determination and through holding onto our values,” he added, an allusion to Turkey’s murky past of military coups and covert action by militant secularist forces.

The unrest has delivered a blow to Turkish financial markets that have thrived under Erdogan. Shares fell more than six percent and the lira fell to 16-month lows. Erdogan said the protesters had no support in the general population and he gave no indication he was preparing any concessions.

Protesters accuse Erdogan of furthering a hidden Islamist agenda in a country with a secularist constitution. Some object to tightening restrictions on alcohol sales and other measures seen as religiously motivated. Others complain of the costs from Erdogan’s support of rebels in neighboring Syria’s civil war. (Reuters)

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