MidEast

European Union Heightens Calls for Turkey Investigations

The European Union has called on Turkey to investigate whether security officers used excessive force in putting down the widespread protests which have roiled the country since last Friday. The call echoes statements of concern made last week by Secretary of State John Kerry. The E.U. wants an account:

“Peaceful demonstrations constitute a legitimate way for … groups to express their views in a democratic society. Excessive use of force by police against these demonstrations has no place in such a democracy,” Fuele said in a speech at a conference attended by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. “I am happy that even the government admitted that. What is important now, is not only to launch a swift and transparent investigation but also to bring those responsible to account.”

Despite efforts by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist government to dampen social media posts – and amid a crackdown on journalists – photos and videos of injured protesters have streamed out of Turkey and now threaten according to the Los Angeles Times to erode Ankara’s democratic credibility:

The prime minister, who will have exhausted his term limits as government leader next year, is expected then to make a run at the presidency, and has been pushing for constitutional changes that would enhance the powers of that mostly ceremonial office. Erdogan outraged trade unionists when he outlawed demonstrations on May 1, the traditional holiday celebrating labor. And the legislation he pushed through the Turkish parliament last month to limit when and where beer, wine and spirits can be sold has been met with accusations that he is imposing his own conservative Islamic views on the entire 80 million population. The turmoil that began as a peaceful environmental protest last week, then flared into a national crisis after police tried to crush the sit-in with tear gas, water cannons and truncheons, reflects Turkish fears that Erdogan is undermining the country’s nearly century-old democracy and seeking to resurrect the authoritarian rule of the sultans.

Dozens of journalists have been injured covering the unrest, and have hundreds of others. There have been at least three deaths. When Erodgan returned to Turkey from a trip abroad last week he greeted supporters with a defiant speech in which he called the mostly peaceful political demonstrations against his rule undemocratic.

[Photo: Alan Hilditch / Flickr]