Main protest group to sue Turkey government

AFP , Sunday 23 Feb 2014

Police fire tear gas to disperse demonstrators during a protest against a new law tightening control of the Internet in Istanbul February 22, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The main activist group behind Turkey's mass street protests last year plans to file an "unprecedented" class action lawsuit against the government over deaths and injuries, local media reported on Sunday.

Earlier this month, a Turkish court dismissed charges of founding a crime syndicate against members of the Taksim Solidarity Platform, the organiser of the demonstrations that turned violent as police launched a brutal crackdown.

"Our lawyers are planning to file an unprecedented lawsuit in the name of everyone who took part in the resistance... who were killed, injured and lost their eyes as a result of violent police action," Ender Imrek, a member of the group and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) told Hurriyet newspaper.

"We will try the government. They should be prepared for a lawsuit that will set an international precedent and will be taught at schools," he said.

The June 2013 protests started as a small environmentalist movement to save an Istanbul park from being razed and snowballed into a nationwide wave of protests against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics say has become increasingly authoritarian.

The activist group includes prominent civil society figures who led the protests that left at least seven people dead and some 8,000 others injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

"Seven young people died when they were defending a peaceful cause. One of our children is in a coma," said Mucella Yapici, head of the Chamber of Architects and Engineers, another member of the group that had faced charges.

She also referred to a medical bill passed last month that makes it a crime for doctors to provide emergency first aid without a government permit, which critics say could be used to bar doctors treating protesters.

"If doctors in this country are sued for helping people on the streets, it is a crime not to try those who are responsible," Yapici said.

Meanwhile, since December Erdogan has been battling a massive corruption scandal implicating his key allies.

His handling of the scandal and retaliatory measures including a law tightening control of the Internet have sparked fresh protests and dented his popularity ahead of important local elections on March 30.

Turkish riot police in Istanbul fired tear gas and water cannon Saturday at around 3,000 people protesting the new Internet curbs.

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