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Europe criticizes Turkey as unions strike

June 17, 2013 at 2:59 PM   |   Comments

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ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 17 (UPI) -- As Turkey faced mounting criticism from the European Union over its handling of protests in Istanbul, Turkish unions went on strike Monday.

Referring to a European Union resolution condemning a police crackdown on demonstrations that began three weeks ago to protest a city park near Istanbul's Taksim Square with a shopping mall, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul Sunday, "They are out of their minds. They have no sense of fidelity. Do you even have the right to make such a decision?"

The demonstrations have evolved into a nationwide anti-government protest, the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman said Monday, noting it has been Erdogan's contention European diplomats are not critical of similar demonstrations in England or France.

Ergogan's remarks came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leading members of the European Union criticized his handling of the protests, which have included tear gas and mass arrests.

"I'm appalled, like many others," Merkel said. "I would like to see those who have criticism, who have a different opinion and a different idea of society, having some space in a Turkey that moves into the 21st century."

Monday Turkish unions went on strike to protest attacks on anti-government marchers, as police used tear gas to drive activists from Istanbul residential areas.

The Confederation of Public Workers' Unions, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey and three other national trade union centers, representing hundreds of thousands of workers across the country in more than two dozen sectors, said the nationwide strike was to protest the intensely violent riot-police eviction of demonstrators from central Istanbul's Taksim Square Saturday night.

The strike slowed transportation, halted construction and shut banks, among other sectors.

At the same time, riot police pressed on with a new stage in Turkey's turmoil, hurtling tear gas canisters through Istanbul residential neighborhoods to remove protesters forced from Taksim Square but still on the streets elsewhere in the city, vowing to return.

"Will you come and take us from our homes next?" one middle-age man was quoted by The Washington Post as yelling from his window at riot police below.

The man lives in Istanbul's Cihangir neighborhood, about a mile from Taksim Square.

At least 400 people were detained Sunday, the Istanbul Bar Association said.

More than 5,000 people have been injured since the start of the protests. Five people have died, including one police officer.

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