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Middle East Today: Turkey --- How Serious Are the Protests?

A protester is injured by a water cannon after challenging a police van

See also Friday's Turkey Today: Protesters Defy Police Crackdown as Demonstrations Spread Beyond Istanbul

Protests Beyond Istanbul

Headlines tonight are of the thousands who gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square as police pulled back and allowed demonstrations; however, there have been large rallies in other Turkish cities. This is Bursa, Turkey's fourth-largest city, in the northwest of the country:

RT Live Stream Protests From Istanbul's Taksim Square

As protests in Ankara and Istanbul continue for a second day, Russian news agency RT is broadcasting a live stream of events in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

Meanwhile, Today's Zaman reporter Mahir Zeynalov is live tweeting from the protests in Taksim Square.

According to Zeynalov, the square is half under construction and it has been difficult for demonstrators to get in and out. Earlier on Saturday as people left the square, others came to fill their place. By now --- 5 p.m. BST --- the square is emptying.

Zeynalov also offered an explanation for why lemons are sought after in Istanbul today:

Starbucks Offers Free Coffee To Protesters In Istanbul

Multinational coffee chain Starbucks in Istanbul is offering drinks to those protesting against government plans to build a shopping mall on a public park.

Rights Groups Call For End To Police Violence In Turkey

Amid ongoing protests in Turkey on Saturday against government plans to transform an Istanbul park into a shopping mall, New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Turkish government to end "police violence and excessive use of force".

HRW said that one political commentator they interviewed --- academic Ahmet Insel --- reported seeing ambulances repeatedly ferrying people to the Taksim İlk Yardım Hospital on Saturday. Insel said that hospital staff at the German Hospital told him that they had removed a plastic bullet from the eye of a 23-year-old student from Istanbul Technical University. HRW say that doctors said the student lost his eye after being shot at close range by the police.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, HRW's senior Turkey researcher slammed the Turkish police, saying that its "record on abusive policing has been surpassed as they use teargas and water cannon fire against peaceful demonstrators".

“The government’s failure to respect the right to protest and to speak out is fueling discontent among people in Turkey," she added.

Turkey: Raw Footage of Today's Clashes

Turkey: How It All Started? Police Pepper-Spray Woman in Istanbul's Taksim Square

Iraq: Highest Monthly Death Toll in 5 Years

The United Nations mission to Iraq says 1045 people were killed in violence in the country in May --- the highest monthly toll since June 2008.

May's figure surpassed the 712 killed in April, which also set a five-year record.

More than half of those killed, amid a series of bombings and gun attacks, were in Baghdad.

Egypt: Release of Accused Killers of Khaled Said, Icon for the 2011 Revolution

The Alexandria Criminal Court has adjourned to 6 July the retrial of the policemen accused of killing Khaled Said --- whose death was a catalyst for the 2011 Revolution - and ordered their release.

The court said the two defendants must be freed because of a detention limit of 18 months. The policemen are trying to overturn their seven-year jail sentences, handed down in October 2012.

The pair were found guilty of illegal imprisonment and torture and violence in Said's death in summer 2010.

The case inspired a Facebook page, "We are All Khaled Said", part of the call to protest on 25 January 2011 that started the 18-day revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Turkey: Prime Minister Defiant Over Protests

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now (0950 GMT) speaking about the police attacks on protesters, is defiant --- he says of those who are demonstrating about the re-development of Gezi Park, "There are games being played....Nobody has the right to protest against the law and democracy."

Erdogan said that police made mistakes in the use of pepper spray and tear gas on demonstrators and that the Ministry of Interior will investigate this; however, Taksim Square --- where the protesters sat in for four days before the police assault on Friday --- cannot be a "safe haven" for demonstrations. He insisted that "illegal organisations [were] provoking naive protesters".

The Prime Minister, invoking history and ideology, said that he will persist in the plans to turn the green space of Gezi Park into a shopping mall, housed in a replica Ottoman-era military barracks.

Erdogan declared that those opposing "urban transformation projects" want "our people to live in shanty homes".

Speaking more widely, Erdogan insisted his Government reflects the will of the people and the opposition should act through the ballot box and not on the streets. He is confident, however, of winning any challenge:

"If this is about staging a protest, about a social movement, I would … gather 200,000 where they gather 20, and where they gather 100,000, I would gather 1 million party supporters. Let's not go down that road."

Turkey: More Police Tear Gas in Taksim Square

An AFP reporter says that police have fired more tear gas this morning at protesters who gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has criticised the security forces, “I think it would be better to try to convince those who say they do not want a shopping mall here [in Gezi Park] than using pepper gas on them."

Turkey: The Crowds on the Bosporus Bridge

Turkey: Protests Escalate After Police Attacks on Friday

Protests escalated in Turkish cities last night after police, using tear gas and water cannon, tried to disperse demonstrators in Istanbul's main Taksim Square on Friday afternoon.

The protesters were in the fourth day of a sit-in challenging the Erdogan Government's plan to cover Istanbul's Gezi Park --- the last major green space in the city --- with a replica Ottoman-era military barracks housing a shopping mall.

More than 60 people were detained and at least 100 were injured, two seriously.

Among the injured were opposition Peace and Democracy Party deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, journalist Ahmet Şık, and photojournalists Osman Orsal and Emrah Gürel.

Protesters defied the police attack, continuing their sit-in, while demonstrations spread last night to Ankara and Izmir. An EA correspondent reports protests in Bodrum, Eskisehir, Bolu, Hopa, Konya, Izmit, Adana and Bursa.

An Istanbul court later ordered the suspension of operations to clear trees from Gezi Park in preparation for the re-development.

Government supporters and protesters clash last night in the Tophane section:

This video, from Hurriyet TV, shows police beating protesters.

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