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DEMOCRACY
Turkey rejects EU criticism of crackdown
by Staff Writers
Ankara (AFP) Oct 19, 2013


Turkey police fire tear gas at student demo
Ankara (AFP) Oct 19, 2013 - Turkish police have fired tear gas on students protesting the start of controversial works on a road through their university campus in Ankara.

The tear gas was fired late on Friday as security forces shielded workers and diggers who began uprooting trees in a park on the site of Middle East Technical University (METU) in the Turkish capital on Friday night.

Dozens of students massed behind the gates of the establishment, angry with the planned destruction of 3,000 trees, Turkey's Dogan press agency reported.

The rector of the university, Ahmet Acar, strongly condemned the police action as illegal and said the university would take the matter to court.

"METU gave its green light to the road project but we do not approve of this night-time raid,", Acar was quoted as saying Saturday on the daily news website Hurriyet.

Greenpeace also issued a statement criticising the "antidemocratic and unacceptable" actions of the Ankara authorities.

The ongoing battle against the project has raged for weeks, with police using rubber bullets and tear gas in protests that drew in hundreds of students in early September.

METU's campus is one of the largest green spaces in the Turkish capital.

The latest protests come as Turkish authorities stand accused of committing "gross human rights violations" during anti-government protests that rocked the country in June and which began as demonstrations against the uprooting of green space in central Istanbul.

Amnesty International said in a report released on October 2 that "a string of human rights violations on a huge scale" were perpetrated by police.

What started as a relatively small environmentalist movement to save Istanbul's central Gezi Park from re-development evolved into a nationwide wave of protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seen as increasingly authoritarian.

At least six people were killed and more than 8,000 people injured following the three weeks of demonstrations across the country in June, presenting Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) with its biggest challenge since it came to power in 2002.

Turkey on Saturday rejected an EU rebuke for Ankara's violent crackdown on dissent and criticised "some member states" for blocking membership talks.

"We consider it highly important to emphasize that actions disrupting the peace in our country through recourse to violence and illegal methods can never be seen as a means to claim one's rights," European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said.

The EU's executive on Wednesday urged the bloc's governments to reopen stalled membership talks with Turkey despite Ankara's crackdown on protesters.

The Commission's much-awaited yearly enlargement report, its score-card on democratic progress achieved by EU aspirants, criticised Ankara for its "uncompromising stance in the face of dissent" and the use of "excessive force" by police against protesters.

In Turkey's first official reaction to the report Bagis said the stalled "negotiations are blocked due to the attitudes of some member states", which he did not name.

The report had urged the 28 European Union states to confirm their willingness to give new impetus to ties with Turkey by resuming talks -- and even widening them out to include new chapters touching on fundamental rights and freedoms.

Bagis said Turkey's "level today regarding democratisation, human rights and economic development is indisputably closest ever to EU standards".

"The fact that this Progress Report is free of any negative assessments that may prevent the opening of Chapter 22 is the most significant indicator of Turkey's determination in the reform process."

Turkish authorities stand accused of committing "gross human rights violations" during anti-government protests that rocked the country in June and which began as demonstrations against the uprooting of green space in central Istanbul.

Amnesty International said in a report released earlier this month that "a string of human rights violations on a huge scale" were perpetrated by police.

What started as a relatively small environmentalist movement to save Istanbul's central Gezi Park from re-development evolved into a nationwide wave of protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seen as increasingly authoritarian.

At least six people were killed and more than 8,000 people injured following the three weeks of demonstrations across the country in June, presenting Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) with its biggest challenge since it came to power in 2002.

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