ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's opposition party leader called on the prime minister to stop escalating tensions and dragging the country "into the fire" as anti-government protests that have led to three deaths entered their 11th day on Monday.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, headed a Cabinet meeting to discuss the protests — the first serious challenge to his 10-year rule.
A day earlier, Erdogan made a series of fiery speeches to thousands of his supporters, saying the government's patience was running thin, demanding an end to the protests and threatening to hold those who don't respect his government to account.
He has also called major pro-government rallies in Ankara and Istanbul next weekend, raising the stakes for those opposing him in the streets and main squares in Turkish cities.
Hurriyet newspaper on Monday quoted Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the pro-secular Republican People's Party as calling on Erdogan to calm tensions.
"Why is the prime minister being so stubborn toward his people? He should not do it. " Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in comments published in Hurriyet newspaper. "We are witnessing a prime minister who is trying to hold on to power by creating tensions."
"A policy that feeds on tension will drag society into the fire," he added.
Crowds swelled into tens of thousands in Istanbul's Taksim Square and main city centers in Ankara and Izmir as Erdogan delivered his speeches. Police broke up the protest near government buildings in Ankara with tear gas and water cannons. At least 12 people were detained, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation said.
Police on Sunday also detained 13 people in the city of Adana for allegedly "inciting people into rioting" through social media posts, the Foundation said. They were being questioned by a court, which would decide whether to charge or release them. A further 25 protesters were detained in Izmir for a series of Twitter posts last week. They were later released.
The protests were sparked May 31 by a violent police crackdown on a sit-in at a park on Taksim to prevent a redevelopment project that would replace the green space with a replica Ottoman Barracks. They have since spread to 78 cities across the country.
Protesters vent anger at what they say are Erdogan's growing autocratic ways and his attempts to impose religious and conservative views on their lifestyles.
Erdogan, a devout Muslim, says he is committed to Turkey's secular laws and rejects charges of autocracy.
On Sunday he denied he was raising tensions and insisted the protests were a ploy to undermine a government that was elected with 50 percent support in elections held in 2011.
Protesters on Monday continued to occupy Gezi Park in Taksim Square, where dozens of tents were erected. Police in Ankara again removed tents from a small park where protesters have gathered in a show of support to the protesters in Gezi.
The prime minister "has said a lot of things about the protests," said Melisa Colakoglu, a 26-year-old protester in Istanbul. "I am here because I don't want him and his government anymore, because it is not democratic."
The Human Rights Foundation said some 4,850 people have sought medical care since the protests began, for injuries or the effects of tear gas. Two protesters have died, as well as a police officer who fell into an underpass while chasing protesters.
- Politics & Government
- Unrest, Conflicts & War
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan