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Thousands gather for Turkish teen's funeral

March 12, 2014
Associated Press

ISTANBUL (AP) — Thousands of people on Wednesday joined a funeral procession in Istanbul for a Turkish teenager who died nine months after slipping into a coma from being hit by a police tear-gas canister during anti-government protests, and called on called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign.

Fifteen-year-old Berkin Elvan's death on Tuesday sparked clashes between protesters and riot police in several cities. The state-run Anadolu Agency said 102 people were arrested overnight in the Aegean port city of Izmir.

On Wednesday, thousands converged in front of a house of worship where Berkin's body lay, and marched to the spot where he was struck in the head on June 16, before proceeding to the cemetery, his casket carried on mourners' shoulders.

Mourners chanted "Berkin Elvan is immortal," ''Government resign!" and "Murderer Tayyip." Some protesters hurled stones at a ruling party building, smashing its windows.

In the capital Ankara, police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who gathered at the city's main intersection.

The protesters' anger was directed at Erdogan because he sanctioned police's often heavy-handed crackdown on the wave of protests that swept Turkey in the summer, and praised police as heroes.

Berkin's death also comes at a time when Erdogan is fighting allegations of corruption and has taken a series of controversial steps — including removing police and prosecutors from key positions — which critics say are aimed at stalling investigations into alleged corruption. Turkey holds local elections on March 30, which Erdogan has acknowledged will act as a referendum on his rule.

Berkin was on his way to buy bread during anti-government street protests when he was struck in the head by a high-velocity gas canister. Several police officers were questioned about Berkin's head injury but none has been charged.

His death raised the number of fatalities from last summer's protests to at least eight.

The summer's anti-government began as a small environmental sit-in against government plans to raise a central Istanbul park but turned into nationwide demonstration against Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian style after police used force against those protesters.



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