ISTANBUL: Turkish riot police fired tear gas at protesters outside an Istanbul hospital Tuesday following the death of a teenage boy wounded in mass anti-government demonstrations last year.
Police responded after several dozen protesters hurled stones at a police bus and stole helmets and shields, an AFP photographer said. At least one demonstrator was injured.
About 1,000 people massed outside the hospital over the death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was walking to buy bread when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police as mass protests swept Istanbul in June.
In another protest in the Turkish capital Ankara, police fired tear gas and water cannons at around 1,000 students who gathered outside the Middle East Technical University, an opposition stronghold, and blocked a major highway.
Several hundred protesters also gathered in the central Kizilay Square, according to local media.
Elvan’s story — he spent 269 days in a coma — gripped the nation and became a symbol of the heavy-handed tactics used by police to reign in the biggest demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since he came to power in 2003.
His mother Gulsum Elvan, speaking to reporters outside the hospital, challenged Erdoğan who had praised police “heroism” during the protests.
“It’s not God who took my son away but Prime Minister Erdogan,” she said through tears.
President Abdullah Gul, who called Elvan’s family after his health deteriorated while he was in a coma, expressed his sadness on Tuesday, urging everyone “to do everything to prevent this from happening again.”
The June protests began as a small environmental movement to save an Istanbul park and snowballed into a nationwide wave of protests against Erdoğan, who critics say has become increasingly authoritarian.
Elvan’s death brought the toll from the unrest to at least eight including a policeman.
An estimated 2.5 million people took to the streets across Turkey over three weeks in June to demand Erdoğan’s resignation. More than 8,000 people were injured, according to medics.