Berkin Elvan: Turkish PM accuses dead boy of terror links

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe teenager symbolises for many the result of heavy-handed police tactics

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said a 15-year-old boy who died on Tuesday from injuries sustained in last year's anti-government protests had links to terrorism.

Berkin Elvan spent nine months in a coma after being hit by a tear gas canister as he went to buy bread.

His death triggered more clashes with the police in over 30 towns and cities.

Mr Erdogan's comments could further inflame political tensions, correspondents say.

In a campaign speech ahead of local elections on 30 March, Mr Erdogan said the teenager was connected to "terrorist organisations".

"This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organisations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas," he said in the speech broadcast on state TV.

Berkin Elvan's funeral took place in Istanbul on Wednesday, providing a focus for further expressions of discontent with Mr Erdogan.

Police fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters near Taksim Square, while his coffin was carried through the city's streets.

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe teenager's death on Tuesday sparked disturbances across Turkey

Tens of thousands of mourners chanted anti-government slogans and his mother accused Mr Erdogan of killing her son.

No tolerance

Berkin Elvan's death brought to at least eight the toll from last year's unrest, including one policeman.

The protests began over plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park into a new mosque and shopping centre, but escalated into national demonstrations against what opponents see as Mr Erdogan's growing authoritarianism.

Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Mr Erdogan said violence would no longer be tolerated.

"We will never let the streets become battlegrounds," he said, accusing opponents of causing disruption ahead of local elections.

Mr Erdogan has promised to step down if the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) does badly in the elections.

However, the AKP, in power since 2002, is expected to do better than its rivals in the polls.

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