Turkey unrest: Police investigated over demonstrator's death

Ethem Sarisuluk was declared brain dead after being shot in the head with a live bullet during a violent police crackdown in Ankara

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The Independent Online

Turkish authorities are investigating the death of a demonstrator who was shot during anti-government protests.

Ethem Sarisuluk was declared brain dead in hospital after being shot in the head during a violent police crackdown on protesters in the Turkish capital, Ankara, two weeks ago.

There has been international condemnation of the brutal police tactics against the protesters. At least four people have died so far. But unlike others who died of injuries related to tear gas and a traffic accident, Mr Sarisuluk, 27, was killed with a l live 9mm bullet to the head, according to preliminary autopsy findings.

There was widespread anger in Turkey when police initially failed to respond to a request from prosecutors investigating the case for the name of the officer concerned, despite dramatic video footage which appears to show him firing a handgun at a group of unarmed protesters, including Sarisuluk, at close range.

The police officer’s name has now been handed over to investigators, together with his handgun, according to a report in Hurriyet newspaper, which identified the officer only as AS.

The police’s apparent initial reluctance to cooperate had fuelled suspicions they were being allowed to use violence against protesters with impunity.

The footage shows the officer, whose identity number can be clearly seen, putting down his riot shield and running towards a protester, who he then kicks repeatedly. Finding himself confronting a group of demonstrators, the policeman draws his handgun, waves it and appears to fire three times in the air, before Sarisuluk falls. A preliminary autopsy found the protester was hit in the head by a 9mm bullet.

Protests have quietened in the last two days. Demonstrators have turned to the new tactic of standing still and silent in public places, emulating a man who stood in Takism Sqare for eight hours, but their numbers have been smaller, and in what appeared to be an attempt to defuse the tension, the Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc - who earlier threatened to send the army onto the streets - said the government welcomed what have become known as the “Standing Man” protests.

But, in a sign the government is preparing for further clashes, Turkish police are to order 100,000 new tear gas cartridges, and 60 new water cannon vehicles, according to Millityet newspaper. Police have already used 130,000 tear gas cartridges in just 20 days, according to the report.

Another Turkish newspaper, Takvim, has been widely condemned after it ran a fake “interview” with the CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour as its front page story, in which it claimed she had “confessed” the American network had distorted its coverage of the protests in order to destabilise Turkey for international business interests.

The paper carried a small disclaimer in which it tried to claim that while the interview was fake, its “revelations” were based on truth. “This interview is not real, but what you will read here is real,” it said.

Ms Amanpour reacted angrily, tweeting “Shame on you” to the newspaper. Its allegations, while bizarre, are typical of the strange paranoia which appears to be gripping the Turkish government and its supporters. The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has variously accused Israel, unspecified foreign governments, and some shadowy group he calls the “interest rate lobby” of being behind the mass protests against him.