ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said his party would not tolerate any more violence, in the wake of mass protests this week in which two people died.
“We will not tolerate new waves of tension and death. We will never let the streets become battlegrounds,” Erdogan said at a speech in the province of Kocaeli near Istanbul.
“We do not want anyone to equip our youngsters with Molotov cocktails, stones and knives and send them to the streets,” he said.
Clashes erupted across the country following the death on Tuesday of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas cannister fired by police during anti-government protests last year.
Elvan’s story — he spent 269 days in a coma — became a symbol of the heavy-handed tactics used by police to quash the biggest protests that Erdogan had faced since coming to power in 2003.
A 22-year-old man was shot dead in Istanbul and a 30-year-old policeman died on Wednesday of a heart attack caused by the tear gas used by officers.
Erdogan has so far refused to directly acknowledge the deaths publicly.
Instead, he said Elvan was linked to a “terrorist organisation” and accused opponents of trying to stir up chaos ahead of crucial local elections on March 30.
“It is obvious that those who gave up hope in the ballot box are looking to the streets. I call on the leaders of opposition parties to act responsibly,” he said.
This week’s protests have added to the tension from a major corruption scandal targeting Erdogan and his allies that erupted in mid-December.