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Turkey

Istanbul police clash with protesters angered by plans to restrict internet access

Police have clashed with protesters in Istanbul angered by government plans to impose curbs on the internet. Separately, Turkey has extended its purge of official bodies in the latest fallout from a corruption scandal.

Turkish riot police fired tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons in the streets of Istanbul on Saturday to break up hundreds of people protesting against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Police took action after some demonstrators threw firebombs at officers. While some arrests were reported there have been no reports of injuries.

The demonstration was organized in response to the draft internet bill that would allow Turkey's telecommunications authority to block websites or remove content accused of privacy violations without a court decision. It would also force service providers to keep a record of Internet users' data for two years.

The bill, approved by a parliamentary bill on Thursday, raised outcry over fears it would further limit fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey.

Protesters gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square chanted "Everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance," the slogan of last June's anti-government protests that first erupted in the square.

The government claims the bill aims to project privacy and block internet content including pornography and child sex abuse.

There were also protests in Ankara, although they were said to have been largely peaceful.

Further high-level dismissals

Mass anti-government protests are becoming increasingly common in Istanbul in light of a recent corruption scandal which has affected numerous top government officials and proved to be the biggest challenge yet to Erdogan's 11-year rule.

The widespread probe into graft allegations resulted in the detention of dozens of people in December including top business figures and the sons of three ministers, who have since resigned. Allegations against them include bribery for construction projects and illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.

Erdogan has accused followers of an Islamic movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the investigation in order to discredit him in the run-up to local elections in March.

The government has since dismissed and reassigned hundreds of police officers and prosecutors in what critics say is an attempt to derail the investigation.

Purge extends to telecommunications and broadcasting

The purge extended further on Saturday into the banking and telecoms sectors as well as state television, local media reported.

The deputy head of the banking watchdog BDDK and two department heads were removed from their posts the reports said. Also affected were five department chiefs from the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB), a body that carries out electronic surveillance and serves as telecoms regulator.

A dozen people including senior news editors and department heads at Turkey's state television channel TRT were also sacked, the reports said.

The sackings come after the online leak of alleged police documents and photographs linked to the corruption probe.

ccp/ipj (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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