Erdogan rejects EU criticism of crackdown
THE Turkish prime minister accused Europe of double standards yesterday after the EU called for an investigation into the "excessive" use of force by the country's police against protesters.
A day after calling for both opponents and supporters to "go home" and end the mass protests continuing across Turkey, Recep Erdogan, defended himself against international criticism.
He asked, "where was the outrage over tear gas" used to disperse Occupy protesters in the US.
Mr Erdogan also pointed to the suppression of protests in London and the rest of Europe.
"Similar protests have taken place in Britain, France, Germany and bigger ones in Greece. All of them are members of the European Union," he said.
He made the comments at a conference in Istanbul, where Stefan Fuele, the European commissioner for enlargement, was speaking ahead of talks on Turkey's long-held ambition to join the EU.
Mr Fuele condemned the crackdown on protesters earlier this week. Thousands have been wounded, including several people blinded by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets directly into crowd, mostly without provocation.
"Peaceful demonstrations constitute a legitimate way for ... groups to express their views in a democratic society. Excessive use of force by police against these demonstrations has no place in such a democracy," Mr Fuele said in a speech at the conference where Mr Erdogan sat in the front row.
Mr Fuele acknowledged that the government apologised for the police attacks, but demanded it carry out proper retribution and a "swift and transparent investigation".
The protests have also put a strain on the police forces, with officers complaining of "exhaustion" after days of "sleeping on the streets and in police cars".
Protesters have occupied Gezi Park for the past week to protect it from a government urban redevelopment plan.
Mr Erdogan says his government will press ahead with the re-development project, but appears to have backed away from initial plans to build a shopping mall.
He has called the protests illegal attempts to challenge his government, said "terrorists" were involved and drew the ire of protesters for calling them "looters."
He told thousands of his supporters yesterday that the protests must immediately end. Supporters shouted slogans threatening "to smash" the protesters.
Analysts said the government's harsh response to the protesters is jeopardising the "momentum" of Turkey's EU bid. (© Daily Telegraph, London)