Turkey Emek cinema protesters released after clash

Image source, Aysen Guven
Image caption,
Protesters say moving the cinema will destroy an icon of Turkish culture

Four people detained during a protest against the closure of the famous Emek cinema in Istanbul on Sunday have been released pending a trial.

The building housing the cinema is to be turned into a shopping centre.

The renowned Greek-born director Costa-Gavras was among many filmmakers, actors and critics who protested.

Turkish police were criticised for using tear gas, water cannon and batons against protesters angered by plans to demolish the cinema.

Police say protesters kicked and threw stones at them, as well as resisting arrest, and distributed photos to journalists to support their version of events.

'Hands off Istanbul!'

The four charged in connection with the protest they include Berke Gol, a famous Turkish film critic.

His lawyer, quoted by the Hurriyet news website, said they were accused of organising an "illegal meeting and protest".

Turkish police dispersed the crowd of protesters on Sunday as they tried to enter Yesilcam Street in the Istanbul district of Beyoglu, where the cinema is located.

Protesters chanted slogans such as "capitalists, hands off Istanbul!" and "Istanbul, wake up and claim your Emek!"

Costa-Gavras took part in the march and watched police using force against the crowd.

In a letter he appealed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to save the cinema.

"A prominent theatre, a cultural centre must not be destroyed. It's like erasing a part of our memory and removing a significant place for the future. Therefore it would be a political, social and artistic failure."

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, which organises the Istanbul Film Festival, condemned the police action against the "peaceful protest".

So far there has been no official statement from police about the clash. The Turkish news website Zaman says some protesters had tried to remove police barricades, prompting a "harsh" police reaction.

'Silent protest'

The cinema is to be demolished and moved to a higher floor, in the new shopping centre.

But Turkish filmmakers and critics say that will not only destroy the cinema, but also ruin Yesilcam Street, which is synonymous with the Turkish film industry.

"The Emek Theatre, a public property, is part of a historical building block called Cercle d'Orient, which is being turned into a shopping centre," said the International Federation of Film Critics Fipresci.

Atilla Dorsay, doyen of Turkish film critics, said on Monday he would stop writing film reviews as part of a "silent protest" against the closure.

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