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Outrage as Turkey PM's advisor assaults protester

16 May 2014, 08:32

Soma – Photographs of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s advisor kicking a protester in Soma has sparked outrage on social media, as tensions run high after the deaths of at least 283 workers in the country’s worst mining disaster.

Defending his actions, Yusuf Yerkel told Hurriyet newspaper: "He attacked and insulted me as well as the prime minister. Should I have stayed silent?"

In the western city of Izmir, about 100km from Soma, which was hit hard by Tuesday's mine explosion, police fired tear gas and water cannon at around 20 000 protesters on Thursday.

Erdogan has rejected claims of government culpability, saying that "such accidents happen".

He compared the collapse to 19th-century mining disasters, saying that "204 people died in the UK in 1862 and 361 people in 1864", in an apparent attempt to downplay its severity.

Erdogan was forced to take refuge in a shop after a furious reaction from relatives of the victims and the missing, some of whom began kicking his vehicle.

At a protest in central Istanbul on Thursday near the city's emblematic Taksim square, the site of weeks of violent anti-government protests last year, angry demonstrators held the country's leaders responsible for the disaster.

"We're not being told the truth about the number of those who died or are trapped," 20-year-old Sinan Cikar lamented. "If necessary precautions had been taken such an accident would never have happened."

Another young protester took issue with Erdogan's mention of 19th-century mining disasters. "But we live in 2014," he said.

"This is not fate but murder," shouted another, Ezgi Kurt, aged 24.

President Abdullah Gul, on a visit to the mine, vowed action to prevent further such accidents.

"Whatever necessary will be done. We need to review all the regulations, like all developed countries do, so that these accidents do not happen again," he said.



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