07/15/2013, 00.00
TURKEY
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Despite the world's indifference, Gezi Park continues to speak out loudly

Forced by protests to stop its redevelopment plan for the park, the government goes after the Chamber of Turkish Architects and Engineers. New clashes break out in Istanbul, with water cannons and tear gas used on the crowd. The death toll rises to five since protests began.

Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Forgotten by the international community, Gezi Park demonstrators continue their protest. After the government suspended the redevelopment of the park, one of the last green spaces in old Istanbul, demonstrations started up against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party. Overnight on Saturday, demonstrators and security forces clashed again near Taksim Square.

Istanbul police attacked a crowd of about 500 people with tear gas and water cannons. The peaceful demonstration, which had begun in Istiklal Street, was organised after the government imposed restrictions on architects and engineers. Protesters also clashed with local merchants, tired by 40 days of continuous protests.

Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party Party (AKP), moved to curb the power of the Chamber of Turkish Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) by stripping it of the power to grant final approval to urban planning projects, prompting opposition charges that he is waging a vendetta against the group for its participation in the protests that began on 31 May.

"The government is trying to make the TMMOB . . . pay for all of those events which affected Turkey," Akif Hamzacebi, a senior lawmaker in the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said.

The TMMOB, which represents some 400,000 professionals, joined the protest movement after it came out against the government plan for Gezi Park, which included building a shopping centre and rebuilding Ottoman-era barracks. As part of its action, the TMMOB launched a lawsuit that forced the government to suspend the project.

The wave of demonstrations that has been sweeping Turkey for more than 40 days began with a protest by some environmentalists against the destruction of Gezi Park, the green lung of old Istanbul, eventually morphing into an open challenge to the ruling AKP and its leader.

Five people have lost their lives during the protests, the latest is a young man of 19, who succumbed last Wednesday after a month in hospital.

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