Turkey probes 'foreign links' to anti-gov't protests

Officials suggest unrest is part of plot against country, involving foreign governments and financial institutions.

June 23, 2013 14:50
2 minute read.
Anti-government protesters demonstrate on a street in central Ankara

turkey protesters 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Turkey's intelligence service (MIT) has begun investigating alleged foreign links to the anti-government protests which have been taking place in the country over the last several weeks, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported on Saturday.

The protests broke out some three weeks ago in Istanbul when police used force and tear gas to disperse environmental activists demonstrating against a government plan to develop a mosque and shops at Istanbul's' Gezi Park in the city's Taksim Square.

The Turkish government, however, has suggested that the protests are part of a plot against the country, involving foreign governments and financial institutions.

Earlier this month, Hurriyet quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as hinting that Israel was "delighted" with the protests.

According to Hurriyet, Erdogan said that "we had foreseen these events [the protests] as a series of conspiracies three months ago," even if the way in which the events unfolded was not predicted. "We had received some intelligence reports," he said.

Officials in Ankara have said that foreign governments are helping to foment unrest in order to slow down the political and economic rise of Turkey.

MIT's findings on possible international links to the "plot" were scheduled to be discussed at a Turkish National Security Council Meeting on Tuesday, the paper reported.

Saturday saw Turkish riot police fire water cannon to clear thousands of protesters from Istanbul's Taksim Square, the first such confrontation there in nearly a week.

In the city of Samsun, a crowd of some 15,000 of Erdogan's AK Party faithful cheered and waved Turkish flags as he called on the public to give their answer to protests at the ballot box when Turkey holds municipal elections next March.

The blunt-talking 59-year-old said opponents both within Turkey and abroad had orchestrated the demonstrations, saying an "interest rate lobby" of speculators in financial markets had benefited from the unrest.

"Who won from these three weeks of protests? The interest rate lobby, Turkey's enemies," Erdogan said from a stage emblazoned with his portrait and a slogan calling for his supporters to "thwart the big game" played out against Turkey.

"Who lost from these protests? Turkey's economy, even if to a small extent, tourism lost. They overshadowed and stained Turkey's image and international power," he said.

Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.

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