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LOCAL >PM Erdoğan repeats previously denied reports of protesters entering mosque with shoes on

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Injured protesters received medical treatment at the Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque in Dolmabahçe during clashes on June 1 and June 2, in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul. DHA photo

Injured protesters received medical treatment at the Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque in Dolmabahçe during clashes on June 1 and June 2, in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul. DHA photo

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today accused protesters of entering Dolmabahçe Mosque with shoes on and beer bottles in their hands, after they had taken refuge at the mosque during a fierce police crackdown last weekend.

"They entered  Dolmabahçe Mosque with their beer bottles and their shoes on. They have insulted my headscarf-wearing daughters and sisters. And they haven't stopped at that," he said, repeating reports that have already been denied by the mosque’s muezzin and imam.

The incident took place the night of June 1 and June 2 as the police were organizing a fierce crackdown on protesters demonstrating near the Prime Minister's Working Office at Dolmabahçe, on the European side of Istanbul a few hundred meters from Taksim Square.

Medics were allowed at the historical Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque, itself only a hundred meters from the PM's office, and it was converted into a first aid center where protesters running from the police crackdown took shelter. Following the episode, rumors spread on social media that some of them entered the mosque with their shoes on, a sign of disrespect, and even drank beer. A video even appeared showing what appeared to be a beer can among medical supplies used to treat the injured.
However both the imam and the muezzin of the mosque denied the claims.

"No alcohol was taken here. If the protesters had seen people drinking after they took refuge here, they would have kicked them out themselves," Fuat Yıldırım, the muezzin, said.

The mosque's imam told daily Radikal, without disclosing his name, that he had tried to mediate between the protesters and the police. "A group that was chased by the police entered forcefully into the mosque. We tried to prevent it, to shut the doors but we did not succeed. The injured were treated for two days. Those who took shelter were running away from police tear gas," he said.

Süleyman Gündüz, columnist for conservative daily Yeni Şafak, also wrote in an article today that the claims were unfounded, denouncing the irresponsibility of those who spread them on social media.

"The first day, as they found time, protesters entered after taking their shoes off. Whereas the second day, the dose of violence had risen, so the protesters entered the mosque desperately, without taking off their shoes, breaking the key to the door," he wrote, adding that the muezzin did everything to calm them down.

He added that the one beer can in the video had been left as the protesters exited the mosque through the window. "The muezzin did not see one person drinking beer," he wrote, adding that no one knew how the beer could have gotten there.

June/09/2013

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