Turkey coal mine explosion: Protester attacked by adviser to Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan ‘was relative of dead miner’

Photo caused outrage after it was shared across social media thousands of times

Heather Saul
Friday 16 May 2014 07:39
The moment the PM's aide Yusuf Yerkel was allegedly caught kicking a protester
The moment the PM's aide Yusuf Yerkel was allegedly caught kicking a protester

A shocking image has emerged appearing to show the moment the Turkish Prime Minister's adviser kicked a protester being restrained on the ground during anti-government demonstrations following an explosion in a coal mine that left 282 dead and scores injured.

Breaking news feed Report Turk told The Independent the picture was taken in Soma, the town where the mine collapsed after the explosion on Tuesday.

It said witnesses at the scene claimed the person being restrained by parliamentary police in the image was in fact a relative of one of the dead miners, although this has not been confirmed.

The photo caused outrage after it was shared across social media thousands of times and Turkish newspapers Cumhuriyet, Milliyet and others on Thursday printed photographs they said were of an Erdogan aide kicking a protester.

Mr Erdogan’s adviser Yusuf Yerkel confirmed in a telephone conversation that he was the man in the image seen about to kick a protester. In a statement released later that day, he issued a brief apology but claimed his actions were the result of being provoked by protesters.

"I am sorry that I was not able to keep calm despite all the provocations, insults and attacks that I was subjected to," he said.

Mr Yerkel is listed as a former student of London's SOAS university.

The incident came as hopes faded for the 150 miners still trapped in the town of Soma.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Mr Erdogan was heckled as he visited the town and spoke during a news conference, where he defended Turkey’s mining safety record by saying: "These are ordinary things. There is a thing in literature called `work accident'... It happens in other work places, too."

Protesters shouted "murderer!" and "thief!" and Mr Erdogan was forced to seek refuge in a supermarket, surrounded by police. Demonstrations took place across Turkey throughout yesterday and continued on Thursday.

In Turkey’s capital Ankara police fired water cannons and tear gas at 800 protesters marching to the Energy Ministers office and the town’s ruling party offices were also attacked.

President Abdullah Gul visited the scene earlier today and offered his condolences to the family of the miners, where he described the events in Soma as a "huge disaster". "The pain is felt by us all," he added.

Rescue operations were brought to a halt for several hours on Thursday morning to allow high concentrations of gas underground to be cleared. Officials said 363 miners had been evacuated, but no survivors have been brought out since Wednesday morning. There were 787 people inside the mine at the time of the explosion, approximately four miles from the entrance and two miles underground.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that rescue efforts are now focusing on two areas inside the mine where a blaze is still raging and hindering the operation.

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