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Union Blasts Government for “Witch Hunt” Amid Renewed Political Crackdown

Turkish police arrested dozens of people in Istanbul Tuesday for holding a demonstration in the city’s Taksim Square, bringing to at least 133 the total number of people arrested in connection with ongoing anti-government protests.More than 3,500 Turkish citizens have also been detained in connection with the unrest, and Turkish police are engaged in ongoing raids designed to break the back of the demonstrations.

Five people died and thousands were wounded during the protests, which began peacefully in late May over plans to redevelop an Istanbul park, but spiraled into a broader show of defiance against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Police used tear gas and water cannon night after night in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities to try to disperse protesters angry at what they said was Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government have faced sharp criticism from both the U.S. and the E.U. over the country’s heavy-handed response to months of protests. Initial demonstrations calling for pluralism were met with heavy-handed police tactics, including the use of tear gas and water cannons, which in turn triggered large-scale protests throughout the country. A Turkish-based American journalist noted wryly over the weekend that Turkey has become a “police state,” and the government meanwhile passed new legislation curbing the authority of a leading Turkish union that had participated in anti-government demonstrations. The Turkish Union of Chambers of Architects and Engineers blasted Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) party for conducting a “witch hunt.”

“This is an AKP-engineered law aimed at weakening the union,” TMMOB head Mehmet Soganci told AFP, referring to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.

“There is no doubt that the law is directly connected with the Gezi Park movement,” he said.

“The ruling party is trying to make the TMMOB pay the price for what happened and has started a witch hunt to create an illegal organization which it can easily blame for the nationwide unrest,” he added.

[Photo: VikiPicture / Wiki Commons]