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eu wants turkey to probe claims of hard-handed crackdown on protesters

ANKARA — Turkey must investigate the excessive use of force by police against anti-government protesters, a senior EU official has said in Istanbul.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele was speaking ahead of talks on Turkey’s ambition to join the EU.

In response, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said similar protests in Europe would be dealt with more harshly.

Turkey has seen a week of civil unrest sparked by a police crackdown on a local protest over an Istanbul park.

Fuele and Erdogan were both speaking at a conference in Istanbul on Turkey’s relations with the EU.

The EU enlargement commissioner said the EU had no intention of giving up on Turkey’s accession, but Turkey had to maintain values of freedom and fundamental rights.

He urged a “swift and transparent” investigation and those responsible should be held to account.

“Peaceful demonstrations constitute a legitimate way for groups to express their views in a democratic society,” he said.

“Excessive use of force by police against these demonstrations has no place in such a democracy”.

In response, Erdogan accused the EU of double standards, saying police in Europe and the US used similar methods.

The Turkish government has acknowledged that police used excessive force against the original protest over the planned redevelopment of Gezi Park in Istanbul.

But they say the wider protest movement that ensued in cities across the country has been hijacked by extremists.

Last night Erdogan called for an immediate end to the demonstrations, saying they bordered on illegality.

In a defiant speech to supporters on his return from a four-day tour off North Africa, he accused the protesters of looting and said they had lost democratic credentials.

Turkey’s hopes of EU membership will not be helped by the worst civil unrest for decades.

Turkey formally applied to join in 1987 and started accession talks in 2005. (BBC)

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