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Istanbul police use tear gas to break up protest over critically injured teenager

Published time: August 02, 2013 20:15
Edited time: August 03, 2013 04:00
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Riot police fire tear gas and a water cannon at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 15, 2013 (Reuters / Osman Orsal)

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Riot police fire tear gas and a water cannon at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 15, 2013 (Reuters / Osman Orsal)

Police have used water cannon and tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in Taksim Square to protest against police violence, which has left a 14-year old boy fighting for his life in intensive care for 46 days.

The teenager, Berkin Elvan was only a bystander and was attacked as he went out onto the street to buy bread on June 15. At the time there were huge protests gripping the city as demonstrators fought a war of attrition with the police over plans to redevelop Taksim Square. His condition has now worsened due to an infection. 

Hundreds turned out on the streets to show their support for Elvan, the Hurriyet daily reported, in a demonstration which was called by his family, seeking justice and action against those officers responsible for their son’s state. 

But as police attempted to push protesters to the entrance of the pedestrianized Istiklal Street, scuffles broke out. 

One of the officers was firing rubber bullets at the protesters from the top of an armored police vehicle, while one of the crowd had been injured by an “unidentified object”, which hit him on the head.

The parents of the teenager were themselves trapped in the crowd.

“I only want my son back,” Gulsum Elvan, the boy’s mother kept crying, who was repeatedly calmed down by other protesters. 

Despite having reopened Gezi Park to the public in the second week of last month, the authorities have not allowed any demonstrations in Taksim Square. 

The square was the scene of huge protests in May and June over plans by Prime Minister Erdogan’s government to develop it into a monument to the Ottoman Empire and a shopping mall. The protests mushroomed into larger nationwide demonstrations against his authoritarian rule and what protesters view as the increasing Islamism of his government.