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    Turk authorities criticized for May 1 security measures

    Hurriyet English with wires
    02.05.2008 - 12:22 | Son Güncelleme:

    Turkey's main opposition party and leading business group criticized the AKP government over the exaggerated security measures taken during May Day celebrations. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the authorities did what they had to.

    The Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal said on Friday the incidents that occured during the May Day celebrations were shame for both Erdogan and his government, adding the AKP government was the side that had provocated the happenings, ANKA reported.

    "We watched the security forces' disproportional use of force and the incidents with sorrow and concern. This was a bad test for the 130-year-old tradition of Turkish democracy." Arzuhan Yalcindag, chairperson of  the executive board of the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD) told ANKA.

    Turkish Minister of Labor Faruk Celik told reporters on Friday the civilian authorities need to explain why they acted with such brutally against the demonstrators in the beginning, in relation to the incidents that occurred in Istanbul on May 1.

    Celik added that the decision taken by the unions to cancel its planned march to Taksim helped to prevent the situation from escalating.

    Erdogan said on Friday he was saddened by the unfortunate incidents that occurred during the May 1 celebrations and with the trade unions’ persistence that forced the situation to this point. The authorities did what they had to, he added.

    "The incidents that happened on May Day saddened me, but the situation could have been much worse; the authorities did what they had to do," Erdogan said.

    A total of 519 demonstrators who had been detained by police during the May Day celebrations in Istanbul, were released on Friday, the Anatolian Agency reported. Eleven of the detainees were sent to the office of the public prosecutor, it added.

    Turkish police on Thursday used batons and pepper spray, as well as water cannons to prevent crowds gathered to celebrate May Day in Istanbul from marching to Taksim Square where they planned to hold a mass gathering.  

    Thirty-eight people, including eight policemen and one journalist, were injured and 530 demonstrations had been detained at the Istanbul rally on May 1.

    Turkey's leading labor unions decided to end their planned march to Taksim following fierce clashes between police and demonstrators on Thursday.

    The Turkish government had insisted on its rejection to lift the decades-long ban and open Taksim for celebrations, citing security concerns, taking extra ordinary security measures stationing thousands of police across the city.   

    The damage caused by the incidents during the May Day celebrations cost Istanbul about 1 billion new Turkish liras (YTL) ($ 796 million), Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas told ANKA on Friday.

    Turkey banned May Day celebrations in Taksim Square after 36 people were killed on May 1, 1977; a date since referred to as the "Bloody May 1." This event is seen as a turning point in Turkish history and an important factor that paved the way for the military coup in 1980. Still-unidentified armed men opened fire on the crowd of some 1-million-people attending the celebrations. The clashes between left and right political groups in the 1970s had brought Turkey to the brink of civil war.

    Photo: AA


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