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Turkey

Turkish protestors issue demands, pepper spray in Ankara

Ankara police have tried to disperse crowds with pepper spray on a sixth day of nationwide protest. Turkey's foreign minister has insisted that premier Tayyip Erdogan's government did not run a "second-class democracy."

Turkish civic society leaders visited the government of absent Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday to present a list of demands, including a call to dismiss the police chiefs of the Turkish capital and Istanbul, where violence began last Friday. Erdogan is visiting northern Africa.

The delegation also called for the release of thousands of protestors detained since last Friday's initial police crackdown on environmentalists in a central Istanbul park that turned into widespread protest against Erdogan's alleged authoritarian rule.

Thousands of striking workers from unions representing private and public sector employees staged protest solidarity rallies on Wednesday in major cities, including the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, union members converged from two directions on Taksim Square, where protest in recent days has been relatively peaceful after riot police withdrew.

Union placards and chants called for the resignation of Erdogan. Diplomats said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglo had told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a phone call that "Turkey is not a second-class democracy."

Protest in Ankara

In Ankara later on Wednesday, police used pepper spray and water cannon in attempts to disperse some 2,000 protestors in Kizilay park, the heart of the government district, according to Reuters. The news agency AFP said ambulances took away at least four people who collapsed in the fumes.

Two researchers at Istanbul's Bilgi University said their online survey of 3,000 demonstrators had found that two-thirds were younger than 30. A large majority – 70 percent – did not belong to political parties. More than half – 54 percent – said they had never before taken part in mass demonstrations.

Architect vocalizes protestors' demands

A civic spokesman representing protestors, Eyup Mumcu of the Istanbul chamber of architects union, presented the demands to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc in Ankara. Included was a call that Erdogan drop a major building plan for Istanbul's Gezi Park, a rare green spot adjourning Taksim Square.

"We demand that those police chiefs... who are responsible for violence and pressure are dismissed," said Mumcu after meeting Arinc.

The civic group also called on Ankara to release all protesters arrested since trouble began nearly a week ago and ban the police from using tear gas against the demonstrators, blamed for scores of injuries.

Injury count rises

The Ankara-based Human Rights Association said on Wednesday that more than 3,300 people had been detained since Friday and that close to 1,000 had been injured.

The German news agency DPA cited the Turkish doctors' association TTB as saying the number of people injured since Friday had risen to 4,100 with 43 persons in critical condition. Already, the protests have claimed at least two lives.

On Tuesday, Arinc had apologized to wounded protestors.

In Turkey's western city of Izmir at least 25 people were arrested for "misleading and libelous" posts on Twitter, according to the Anatolia news agency.

Protestors in recent days have relied heavily on social media networks and initially complained that mainstream Turkish media was slow to cover the crisis.

Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was first elected in 2002. Opponents accuse him of repressing critics and pushing conservative Islamic policies. Last weekend, he told protestors to wait until elections next year.

ipj/dr (AFP, dpa, AP)