Turkish police have arrested more than 1,000 protesters during the recent wave of violent demonstrations, Turkish paper Today's Zaman reported Wednesday. Among those arrested, the paper reported, was an Iranian citizen named Shayan Shamloo, who had supposedly been in contact with his country's intelligence services.
Citing an anonymous governmental source, the paper reported that the Iranian national was suspected to have played an inciting role in the violent protests that swept Ankara in recent days. The same source also told the paper that the government suspected Shamloo of being in service of Iranian intelligence services.
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In addition to Shamloo, police have reported arresting an additional 15 foreign nationals, also in connection with events. Most of those arrested turned out also to be of Iranian nationality.
The Star, a government affiliated daily, had previously reported that an additional Iranian, Ramin Sarabi, was also arrested on similar allegations in the city of Erzurum for conspiring to attack a delegation of "wise man" (sic) charged with mapping public opinion in the region in regard to the peace agreement signed with the PKK.
Ankara protests (Photo: AFP)
Revolutionary Guard ties?
According to reports, the investigation revealed that Sarabi has links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted recently that foreign forces were involved in instigating the protests, and Wednesday's arrests underscore his seriousness in investigating foreign links in relation to the current protests.
"Our intelligence work is ongoing (in this regard). It is not possible to reveal their names. But we will have meetings with their heads," Erdogan said to reporters.
For the first time Wednesday, Turkish trade unionists joined the unprecedented protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan over what they see as his authoritarian rule.
Members of more than a dozen unions chanting "Tayyip resign" marched down a major avenue towards Taksim Square. There were similar protests against Erdogan, prime minister for over 10 years and winner of three elections, in Kizilay Park in the capital Ankara.
A group of activists calling themselves "Solidarity Taksim" held a press conference Wednesday, announcing they had passed on their demands to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc during a meeting held with him.
The activist group denounced Erdogan's "vexing" style and urged the government to halt Taksim Square redevelopment plans, ban the use of tear gas by police, the immediate release of all detained protesters and the lifting of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.
It also demanded that officials – including governors and senior police officials – responsible for the violent crackdown on the protests be removed from office.
Additionally, hackers calling themselves "Anonymous Turkey" said they had attacked government systems and obtained confidential details of staff in Erdogan's office.
A source in the prime minister's office confirmed staff email accounts had come under a phishing attack but said those affected had been cut off from the network.
In the meantime, in Taksim, thousands remained at a makeshift camp that is taking on the look of a more enduring settlement.
Small tents have appeared, food and face masks against tear gas are on sale and a library is in the making. On a street off the square some protesters skirmished overnight with police who used tear gas.
Overall, protests appeared to calm a bit on Wednesday, even as thousands of trade union members on a two-day strike marched to Taksim and into central Ankara.
Some demonstrations were jovial. In Ankara, protesters sarcastically called themselves "looters," a reference to Erdogan's earlier characterization of the demonstrators. A sign on a stall in Taksim providing free food and water read "Revolution Market."
There were scattered violent clashes overnight on roads leading to Erdogan's offices in Ankara and Istanbul, as well as in the city of Antakya, near the Syrian border, where a protester was killed Wednesday from an apparent blow to the head.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who is standing in for Erdogan while he is on a trip to Northern Africa, has offered an olive branch to protesters, apologizing for what he said was a "wrong and unjust" crackdown on the original sit-in which sparked the protest.
Erdogan had inflamed protesters, calling them an extremist fringe, and refusing to back away from plans to revamp Taksim.
"The steps the government takes from now on will define the course of society's reaction," Eyup Muhcu, an activist said after meeting with Arinc.
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