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Turkey charges 22 more over anti-government protests

Turkey today charged 22 more people over their alleged role in this month's mass anti-government protests, accusing them of acting on behalf of a far-left "terrorist" group, lawyers said.

world Updated: Jun 22, 2013 22:18 IST

Turkey on Saturday charged 22 more people over their alleged role in this month's mass anti-government protests, accusing them of acting on behalf of a far-left "terrorist" group, lawyers said.

A court in the capital Ankara charged the 22 and ordered them placed in detention for their alleged role in the demonstrations, the Contemporary Lawyers Association (CHD) said.

Three others who were arrested were released but placed under judicial supervision, it said.

The indictments bring to at least 46 the number of people facing charges over the demonstrations that have presented Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government with the biggest challenge of their decade-old rule.

Turkey has taken a tough stance against the tens of thousands of demonstrators who have been protesting since May 31 against the government, seen as increasingly authoritarian and conservative.

The protests, which have left at least four people dead and nearly 8,000 injured, have infuriated Erdogan and have earned Ankara criticism from the West, leading to a flare in tensions with Germany.

On Tuesday, police in Istanbul and Ankara arrested dozens of members of leftist groups in an operation that the Interior Minister Muammer Guler said had been planned for months but also targeted demonstrators.

"The operation, in the works for a year.... targeted the terrorist MLKP (Communist Marxist-Leninist Party), that also participated in Gezi Park demonstrations," Guler said.

In Istanbul, a court on Friday charged 18 members of the small far-left Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) who were among 90 detained in the same police sweep, accusing them of "belonging to a terrorist organisation" and "destroying public property".

Police had also searched the offices of the Atilim newspaper and the Etkin news agency, both tied to the ESP group.

What began as a peaceful protest against plans to demolish Istanbul's Gezi Park, one of the city's last large green spots, turned violent on May 31 when police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

The heavy-handed police response sparked demonstrations that quickly turned into protests against Erdogan's government.

Police moved in on June 15 to evacuate Gezi Park, the last stronghold of the anti-government protesters after a series of police crackdowns.