Turkish Protests Spread After Funeral, 2 Reported Dead

Protesters clashed with police in cities throughout Turkey and two people were reportedly killed, as unrest spread after the funeral of a teenager who died from injuries sustained during last summer’s Gezi Park rallies.

Tens of thousands of Turks turned out in Istanbul for the funeral yesterday of Berkin Elvan, who had been in a coma for nine months after receiving a head wound from a tear-gas canister. Many of those attending later clashed with police, who used tear gas and water cannons. One demonstrator was killed in the Kurtulus district near the central Taksim Square, Hurriyet newspaper said.

Thousands of protesters also gathered in downtown Ankara for a second day and in other Turkish cities, where similar clashes occurred. A policeman died in the southeastern province of Tunceli due to the effects of tear gas, Hurriyet said.

Turkey’s biggest street protests since last summer began hours after Elvan’s death on March 11, which added to widespread anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over a corruption probe that has implicated the premier and several ministers.

“These protests have the potential to seriously damage Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s political ambitions less than three weeks ahead of the critical local elections on 30 March,” Wolfango Piccoli, managing director of political risk analyst Teneo Intelligence, said in an e-mailed report.

Yields on benchmark two-year bonds rose 8 basis points yesterday to 11.53 percent, the highest since 2009. The lira pared losses after sliding to a five-week low the previous day.

Erdogan, unlike President Abdullah Gul and several ministers, hasn’t expressed public regret for Elvan’s death. That could hurt his prospects of winning the presidency in an August election, said Piccoli.

‘Particular Resonance’

While the corruption allegations “have had little impact on Erdogan’s electoral popularity,” the death of Elvan, who was on his way to buy bread, “cuts across political divides and will have particular resonance amongst the urban and rural poor who form Erdogan’s core support base,” he said.

Many protesters took to the streets carrying loaves of bread as a symbol of Elvan’s death. They shouted “murderer police” and called for the government’s resignation.

More than 200 people have been arrested nationwide over the past two days, according to local media.

Erdogan, speaking at an election rally in the southeastern city of Siirt yesterday, rejected the allegations of graft and accused the demonstrators of damaging property.

Elvan’s death brought to eight the toll from last year’s clashes, sparked in May by plans to redevelop Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Yesterday’s funeral ceremony in Istanbul coincided with the anniversary of protests among the city’s Alevi religious minority, of which Elvan’s family are members, in 1995, which escalated into deadly clashes with police leaving more than 20 people dead.