Istanbul clashes as Turkey PM Erdogan condemns 'plot'

Security forces used water cannon and smoke grenades to quell the crowd

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Turkish police have used tear gas against thousands of anti-government protesters in Istanbul as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to break the hands of "plotters".

Clashes erupted between protesters and police in Kadikoy Square, in an echo of protests in the city earlier this year.

In a northern town Mr Erdogan denounced people he said were setting anti-Turkish "traps" to undermine his rule.

The sons of two cabinet ministers have been charged in a big corruption probe.

The investigation has led to charges against 24 people so far. They are suspected of involvement in bribery, in connection with urban development projects and the allocation of construction permits.

Baris Guler, the son of Interior Minister Muammer Guler, and Kaan Caglayan, son of Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, are among those detained, as is the chief executive of the state-owned Halkbank, Suleyman Aslan.

In Twitter comments on Sunday the two sons denied the accusations.

Burning barricade on Istanbul street, 22 Dec 13 In some streets in Istanbul protesters set barricades ablaze
Istanbul police charge against protesters, 22 Dec 13 Riot police charged at protesters
Tear gassed protesters in Istanbul Police tear gas sent protesters fleeing for cover

Commentators in Turkey report that the arrests and firings reflect a feud within Turkey's ruling AK Party between those who back Mr Erdogan and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar living in exile in the US.

In Istanbul protesters chanted "everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption". It was an echo of the Taksim Square mass protest this summer, when opposition activists chanted "everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance".

Police on Sunday used tear gas and water cannon to disperse them in streets where protesters had set fire to makeshift barricades.

'Break those hands'

In the Black Sea town of Giresun, Mr Erdogan told a crowd of supporters that his Islamist-rooted AK was facing a "dark plot" by forces outside Turkey who wanted to split the country apart.

"Let our friends and foes know this. Whoever dares to harm, stir up or set traps in this country, whoever tries to touch our independence, we will come to break those hands," he said.

In the summer police fought running battles with anti-AK protesters over plans to develop Gezi Park, in the heart of Istanbul.

The controversial arrests in the anti-corruption crackdown began last week when police launched dawn raids in Istanbul and Ankara.

Mr Erdogan reacted angrily and on Thursday the head of Istanbul's police was forced from his position. More than 30 senior police officers have reportedly been sacked.

Members of Mr Gulen's Hizmet movement are said to hold influential positions in institutions such as the police, the judiciary and the AK Party itself.

Erdogan 'fantasies'

Mr Erdogan's defiant message drew criticism from Turkish press commentators on Monday.

Semih Idiz in the leftist Taraf said that "as in the Gezi incidents, Erdogan thinks he can get out of this scandal by linking the issue to a conspiracy organised by internal and external powers".

Asli Aydintasbas in Milliyet wrote that "Tayyip Erdogan will probably win the fight that he has got into against the Gulen Movement by using the sanction power of the state - but then the regime that is built will be a 'Tayyip Erdogan regime' and not a democracy".

Ali H Aslan in the moderate Zaman said "Erdogan likes to take the credit when things go well and accuse his friends, partners or unrelated parties when things go badly...

"These excessive internal and external enemy fantasies, which could drag Turkey into dangerous situations and ruin the country's stability, should be abandoned."

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