ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's leader on Thursday criticized protests being held regarding the death of a teenager who was wounded by police as an attempt to create chaos and influence upcoming elections.
The 15-year-old boy, Berkin Elvan, died Tuesday, nine months after being hit by a police tear gas canister during widespread anti-government protests and slipping into a coma. He was injured while walking to a bakery to buy bread and was not taking part in the protests.
On Wednesday clashes broke out in Istanbul and several other cities after tens of thousands of people joined a funeral procession in Istanbul for Elvan, who has become a symbol of civilian resistance in Turkey. Officials say at least two people died.
Turkey will hold local elections on March 30, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has acknowledged that the results will serve as a referendum on his rule. Speaking at an election rally in the southern city of Mersin on Thursday, he condemned the protests regarding Elvan.
"These people are fakes. They have nothing to do with democracy or freedom," he said. "They foresee the result of the elections and think, 'Can we get results through chaos?'" On Wednesday night, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds trying to reach a main Istanbul square, and the Istanbul governor's office said a 22-year-old man died and two other people were wounded in fighting between pro- and anti-government youths.
The fatality, Burak Can Karamanoglu, was shot in the head, according to a preliminary autopsy report cited by the state-run Anadolu Agency. On Thursday, about 2,000 people converged in an Istanbul neighborhood to protest Karamanoglu's death.
In the eastern city of Tunceli, the governor said a police officer died of a heart attack during clashes with anti-government protesters Wednesday. Officials denied reports that police tear gas caused the heart attack, insisting that the policeman had not been exposed to the gas.
The two deaths brought the toll from anti-government protests in Turkey since May to at least 10.