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Protests

Istanbul riot police fire tear gas at demonstrators

Riot police in Turkey have fired tear gas at demonstrators who tried to enter Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Protesters were there to underline the importance of a court ruling that bars the development of a popular park.

Officers fired tear gas and water cannon in an apparent effort to disperse the protesters and stop them from entering the square, which has become a focal point for demonstrations.

Some 3,000 demonstrators had gathered in the Istiklal Avenue, a pedestrian route that leads to the square.

The Taksim Solidarity Platform, which combines a number of different political groups, called the march. However, the governor of Istanbul warned the demonstrators away.

Television footage showed protesters at Taksim Square displaying a court decision to cancel the plans for a replica Ottoman-era barracks - complete with ships and restaurants - to be built on the square and neighboring Gezi Park.

Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said the authorities planned to reopen the park on Sunday or Monday.

"Parks are not places for protests," Mutlu said. "They must serve as a place of calm and tranquility for all people."

Authorities are able to appeal against the court ruling, which was considered a victory for the protesters and a blow for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The park has been cordoned off since it was cleared by police some three weeks ago.

An initial heavy-handed police crackdown on demonstrators opposed to the redevelopment triggered a series of protests across the country against the moderate Islamist Erdogan. The premier and his government are accused of being too authoritarian after a decade in power and of betraying the country's secular values.

The ensuing violence left four people dead and about 8,000 injured.

rc/mkg (AP, AFP, Reuters)