ANKARA - Turkey's deputy prime minister on Wednesday condemned a top aide for attacking an anti-government protester in the wake of the country's worst ever mining disaster, describing the incident as "catastrophic".
Images of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's advisor Yusuf Yerkel repeatedly kicking a demonstrator as he was held down by two security officers have sparked a nationwide backlash against the government.
"It is a very catastrophic incident," Bulent Arinc said of Yerkel's actions after a weekly cabinet meeting.
"I am not in a position to defend it, whoever he is," he told reporters.
Yerkel has since apologised, admitting he was "not able to keep my calm in the face of all provocations, attacks and insults".
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has faced mounting public anger over its response to last week's coalmine blast in the western town of Soma that claimed 301 lives.
Police have fired tear gas and water cannon as thousands have taken to the streets to vent their anger at Ankara.