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LOCAL > Istanbul Governor’s Office says intel reports show ‘violence’ risk if Taksim allocated for May Day

ISTANBUL

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Extraordinary security measures are taken in Taksim Square to prevent any May Day gathering. DHA Photo

Extraordinary security measures are taken in Taksim Square to prevent any May Day gathering. DHA Photo

Taksim Square will not be allocated to May Day demonstrations based on intelligence reports showing that “illegal terrorist groups” will resort to violence against security forces, Istanbul Governor’s Office has said as unions are insisting on gathering at the iconic square for Labor Day.

“Intelligence units have information showing that illegal terrorist organizations and their offshoot groups will resort to violence against security forces. It is such that not only public order and security in Taksim Square and its surroundings are at risk, but also the rights and freedoms of our citizens might be threatened,” the Istanbul Governor’s Office said in a statement released on April 30.

Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said on April 29 that “different statement” would be made on the eve of May Day, prompting hopes that the square would eventually be opened for demonstrations. However, the anticipated statement ruled out such possibility, reiterating that the recently completed rally area built over the Marmara Sea in Yenikapı would be the only rally point allocated to demonstrations.

Unions, including the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) and the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) had renewed their request, underlining that the measure was incompatible with previous decisions ruled by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ensuring freedom of assembly. However, the Governor’s Office argued in its statement that the measure was in line with the restrictions on the right of assembly foreseen by the ECHR.

“The rally point determined for Istanbul’s European side is Yenikapı and this is the public space allocated [to the unions],” the statement said.

Gov. Mutlu said in a later statement that there were particular threats of attacks with rifles. “We seized two Kalashnikovs during a recent operation conducted by our security forces. We have to protect our citizens,” Mutlu said.

The governor’s office also said unions would be allowed to send representatives to the square to lay a “symbolic wreath” at the square.

The statement also cited “tourism” as one of the reasons to prevent any gathering at the square with an extraordinary police deployment, emphasizing that demonstrations could “have a negative effect” on tourism, as the square is surrounded by hotels.

Public transport restricted

Mutlu also announced restrictions on public transportation at some areas, mostly areas that can lead to rallying points of unions and other associations that will try to walk to Taksim Square despite the ban.

The ferry docks in Eminönü, Karaköy, Sirkeci and Beşiktaş will be closed on May Day, Mutlu said, but added transportation will be provided to reach the rally area in Yenikapı.

Daily Hürriyet reported that 40,000 police officers will be deployed to Istanbul on May Day with dozens of water cannon trucks and armored vehicles at the roads connecting to Taksim square.

April/30/2014

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