ANKARA: Turkish police broke up protests late Friday calling for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign over a corruption scandal that has savaged his government, prompted party resignations and pushed the country´s currency to a record low.
Police forcibly dispersed thousands of anti-government demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul who had been calling for the government to step down.
In Istanbul, clashes took place, with some protesters shooting fireworks at police, who responded with water cannon, plastic bullets and tear gas. At least two demonstrators were hurt, an AFP photographer saw.
Local prosecutors said at least 31 people were arrested. The situation calmed hours later, but officers remained deployed.
Hundreds of protesters who had gathered in a central square in Ankara were also made to leave by riot police.
During their rally, some had held up shoe boxes in reference to images of boxes stuffed with millions of dollars found in the home of one corruption probe suspect, the head of state-controlled bank Halkbank.
Despite the agitation, and days of political turmoil due to the corruption scandal, Erdogan has stood fast in claiming developments were a “smear campaign” mounted by obscure international forces.
“Those who call it a corruption inquiry are corrupt themselves,” he told a large crowd of his supporters on Friday as he arrived in Istanbul from a political rally in the northwest.
Erdogan also lashed out at lawmakers who have quit his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) because of the scandal, saying they have “betrayed us along our journey”.