Turkish president expresses grief, vows full probe into protester’s death
Protesters run to escape tear gas during a clash with police on Istiklal Avenue on Sept 10. Police again fired many rounds of tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred demonstrators rallying in Istanbul against the death of a protester in Antakya earlier in the day. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELTurkish President Abdullah Gül has voiced grief over the death of Gezi protester Ahmet Atakan and vowed to do what is necessary to shed light on the issue.
“The most sensitive inspections will be done over this issue. What’s necessary will be done. It is a controversial issue as far as I understood. But I felt great sorrow. The loss of life is not a joke,” said President Gül today speaking over the death of the 22-year-old Antakya resident early on Sept. 10.
Atakan had taken part in a demonstration in support of students protesting against the construction of a road in Ankara’s Middle Eastern Technical University (ODTÜ) in the neighborhood of Armutlu, which has been one of the largest centers of resistance against the government and the police since the Gezi protests erupted three months ago. Police released footage from a local camera purporting to indicate that Atakan had fallen from a building, although initial medical reports had said he was struck by a tear gas canister in the head.
Police fire tear gas to disperse crowds gathered to denounce protester's death in Turkey
The police staged a fresh crackdown on demonstrators in the early evening hours of Sept. 10, after groups had gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square to denounce the death of a protester in Antakya during an intervention.
After the crowd swelled in numbers in Taksim Square, police pushed them down through the pedestrian İstiklal Avenue in order to prevent the demonstration from taking place.
Once again tear gas and water cannons were resorted to, with police chasing protesters down İstiklal Avenue and the many narrow side streets in the area.
Police also used tear gas to disperse a crowd that had arrived by ferry at the Karaköy docks, downhill from İstiklal Avenue, in order prevent them from reaching the Taksim area.
The police intervention continued for more than four hours around İstiklal Avenue's side streets.
The Istanbul bar association has stated that 41 people have been detained in Istanbul alone.
Another protest was staged in the district of Kadıköy, on Istanbul's Asian side.
Witnesses and activists claimed that Atakan was hit in the head by a gas canister fired by the police. However, the Turkish police released a statement saying footage from a police camera indicated that Atakan had fallen from a building, and that no intervention by the police was visible.
A doctor present during the protester's preliminary autopsy said there was no evidence to prove that the latter had fallen from a building.
Shortly earlier, police had sealed off Gezi Park next to the square following calls on social media for a demonstration.
The Taksim Solidarity Platform, which initiated the first protests against the destruction of trees in Gezi Park months ago, scheduled a public rally in Taksim Square at around 7 p.m. “We will gather at Taksim with carnations to commemorate Ahmet Atakan and denounce police violence,” the group said via its social media account.
Meanwhile, the under-21 football match between Turkey and Sweden at the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadium in the Kasımpaşa district was temporarily interrupted due to tear gas drifting over from the nearby Taksim area.
There is no doubt that this is about falling from a high building: Interior Minister
Interior Minister Muammer Güler said today that there was no doubt that Atakan died due to a fall from a high building, according to video footage.
“There is new footage on the incident. We are investigating. There is no doubt that this is about falling from a high building. But despite that, this is a saddening incident,” Güler told reporters today.
He also said there were attempts to trigger protests in Hatay by raising ethnic tensions.
“The tear gas canister is a claim, the footages reveals everything. There is no intervention from the police vehicle passing through that street [at the time Atakan allegedly falls from the building]. Nothing remains secret. Everyone has to wait patiently,” Güler said.
Police also intervene in Ankara and İzmir
Almost 3,000 people gathered in Ankara after
departing from nine different gathering points.
DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
Almost 3,000 people gathered in Ankara, where demonstrations have been ongoing since last week due to a road dispute on the campus of ODTÜ, as well as protests calling for an end to police violence.
Police resorted to tear gas and water cannons after protesters refused to disperse from Kızılay Square. Many bystanders were affected by the intense tear gas used by the police.
The crowd had arrived at the square after departing from nine different gathering points in order to prevent police from stopping their march. All members of the riot police teams had been called to duty prior to the demonstrations, daily Hürriyet reported.
In İzmir, police intervened to halt protesters aiming to march to Basmane Square.
Similar protests to denounce Atakan's death were held in Antalya, Bursa and Eskişehir, with no reports that the police had used force.
Clashes in Antakya
Fresh protests are also ongoing in the southern city of Antakya’s Armutlu neighborhood, where Atakan died, following his funeral. Police responded to protesters by firing tear gas and water cannons, and some demonstrators erected barricades with car tires and set them on fire.
Atakan is the sixth protester killed in anti-government protests in Turkey this summer, after Abdullah Cömert (22), Ali İsmail Korkmaz (19), Ethem Sarısülük (26), Mehmet Ayvalıtaş (20) and Medeni Yıldırım (18). Police officer Mustafa Sarı also died after falling from a bridge while pursuing fleeing protesters in Adana.