Clashes in Turkey as protesters mourn teen's death

Clashes in Turkey as protesters mourn teen's death

ISTANBUL - Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Ankara and Istanbul on Wednesday as tens of thousands took to the streets to mourn a teenage boy who died from injuries suffered in last year's anti-government protests.

At least one person was killed as protests swept the country, a 30-year-old policeman who died of a heart attack after officers confronted demonstrators in the eastern town of Tunceli, the Dogan news agency reported.

In Ankara, police clashed with demonstrators as they tried to stop traffic, and in Istanbul, large crowds shouting anti-government slogans lit a huge fire as they made their way to a cemetery for the burial of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan.

Elvan, who died in an Istanbul hospital Tuesday after 269 days in a coma, was hit on the head by a tear gas canister while going to buy bread during the protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that gripped Turkey in June.

"Berkin's murderers are the AKP police," protesters shouted in Istanbul, referring to Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Scuffles broke out when police tried to prevent a group of protesters from gathering on the city's Taksim Square, the epicentre of the June protests. Police made a number of arrests, and clashes left several people injured.

In the western city of Izmir, one woman was left with a broken leg and several others were hospitalised after police tried to stop crowds marching toward local government buildings, news channel NTV reported.

The renewed unrest, following clashes in at least 32 cities Tuesday, adds to mounting pressure on Erdogan, whose government has been rocked by a corruption scandal ahead of elections that could decide his fate.

Elvan's story became a symbol for many Turks of the heavy-handed police tactics against the mass protests in June, a major challenge to Erdogan's 11-year-rule.

The protests started as a relatively small environmentalist movement to save Istanbul's Gezi Park, but evolved into a nationwide wave of protests against Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

An estimated 2.5 million people took to the streets across Turkey over three weeks in June. Medics say more than 8,000 people were injured and at least eight killed, including Elvan.

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