Turkey: 25 held for 'inciting' demonstrations over social media


Wednesday 05 June 2013 09:25 BST

Turkish police have detained 25 people for "spreading untrue information" on social media and provoking protests, the state-run news agency said.

The people were detained in the city of Izmir for allegedly "inciting the people to enmity and hate", the Anadolu Agency said, adding that police are still looking for 13 others.

Tens of thousands of Turks have joined anti-government protests expressing discontent with prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's 10-year rule.

Turkey's main broadcast media have been criticised for shunning the coverage of police brutality at the protest onset on Friday, and many people turned to social media to keep up to date with the developments.

Mr Erdogan, who has dismissed the protests as demonstrations organised by an extremist fringe, has referred to the social media as "the worst menace to society".

The arrests as one of Turkey's deputy prime ministers said his government respects the right to non-violent protest and free speech, but must also protect its citizens against violence.

At an event in Washington with US vice president Joe Biden, Ali Babacan was mostly conciliatory about the protesters, but implied that some were provoking violence for political ends.

Mr Babacan said: "We should be very careful when we evaluate the recent ongoing events in Turkey.There is a need for a strict distinction between the terrorist groups or illegal organisations versus citizens who are purely protesting on a non-violent basis."

Huge crowds of mostly secular-minded Turks have joined anti-government rallies since police launched a pre-dawn raid against a peaceful sit-in protesting at plans to uproot trees in Taksim Square, Istanbul.

Since then, the demonstrations have spiralled into Turkey's biggest anti-government disturbances in years.

Mr Babacan's comments followed an apology yesterday by fellow deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc, who called the crackdown on protesters "wrong and unjust".

Protests have been directed at what critics say is Mr Erdogan's aggressive and authoritarian style of governing.

Many accuse him of forcing his conservative, religious outlook on citizens in the mainly Muslim but secular nation. Mr Erdogan rejects the accusations and says he respects all lifestyles.


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