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Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling AK party, says it is open to the idea of a referendum on controversial plans to redevelop Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

Huseyin Celik hoped the “gesture of goodwill” would clear the area.

But he warned: “Those… who seek to provoke and remain in the park will face the police.”

Police treatment of protesters campaigning against the redevelopment triggered broader demonstrations that have continued since May 31.

“We might put it to a referendum… In democracies only the will of the people counts,” Huseyin Celik said.

“We think that after this gesture of goodwill, people will decide to go home.”

Huseyin Celik’s comments represent the first time that the AK party has openly discussed letting voters decide what happens to the park. Demonstrators have remained there throughout the protests.

There has been a mixed reaction among protesters on Twitter, with some welcoming the proposal and others mistrustful of the authorities.

Turkish media reported on Wednesday that PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan had told the interior minister to end the protests in Gezi Park within 24 hours.

More than 20 opposition MPs have gone to the park to try to prevent any police intervention.

Senior European diplomats have expressed strong concern over Turkey’s response to the protests.

Hundreds of protesters have now gathered in Taksim Square, next to the park, although the square is about half as full as it was on Tuesday.

Police stood back along the edges of the square, which had been clear during the day after a series of violent clashes between police and protesters on Tuesday and overnight.

During the day, Recep Tayyip Erdogan met 11 activists, but protest leaders dismissed the meeting.

Turkey’s AK party is open to the idea of a referendum on controversial plans to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park

Turkey’s AK party is open to the idea of a referendum on controversial plans to redevelop Istanbul’s Gezi Park

In both Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, on Wednesday thousands of lawyers left court in their black robes to march through the streets, protesting against the treatment of their colleagues during demonstrations.

Dozens of lawyers were briefly held in Istanbul on Tuesday as they voiced their opposition to police action to clear the square.

“Our friends who had been detained in Istanbul were taken under custody just because they were reading a press release,” said one of the lawyers in Ankara, Mehmet Toker.

“We are here to defend freedom of speech.”

Demonstrators accuse Recep Tayyip Erdogan of becoming increasingly authoritarian and trying to impose conservative Islamic values on a secular state.

“Oppression has been going on for months,” said another lawyer, Ege Inal.

“The government is exactly like the ones that they have been criticizing. That is why we are here.”

Late in the afternoon, Recep Tayyip Erdogan met a group of 11 people – including artists, architects and a social media specialist – to discuss the situation in Gezi Park.

But those in the park and Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group seen as most representative of the protesters, said the activists did not speak for them.

“As police violence continues mercilessly… these meetings will in no way lead to a solution,” a statement from Taksim Solidarity said.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier said protests would no longer be tolerated, dismissing protesters as “looters”.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who has taken a more conciliatory line than PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said authorities should listen to protesters’ grievances.

“If people have objections, then to engage in a dialogue with these people, to hear out what they say is no doubt our duty,” he told reporters.

European Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said the unrest represented a “key moment” for Turkey, and a “chance for it to renew its commitment to European values”.

The Turkish Human Rights Foundation said more than 620 people had been injured in Tuesday’s police crackdown.

Since the protests began, four people have been killed, including one policeman and some 5,000 protesters as well as hundreds of police officers are estimated to have been injured.

Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said the unrest was the “first serious test for the endurance of democracy in Turkey and its accession to Europe”, while German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed his concern in a statement.

“We expect Prime Minister Erdogan to de-escalate the situation, in the spirit of European values, and to seek a constructive exchange and peaceful dialogue,” he said.

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to press ahead with controversial Taksim Gezi Park redevelopment that has sparked violent clashes in central Istanbul.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would not yield to “wild extremists” and urged an end to the protests.

Clashes over Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul began on Friday and continued there and in the capital, Ankara, on Saturday.

Correspondents say the local issue has spiraled into more widespread anger over perceived “Islamisation”.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in power since 2002 and some in Turkey have complained that his government is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

His ruling AK Party has its roots in political Islam, but he says he is committed to Turkey’s state secularism.

Last week, Turkey’s parliament approved legislation restricting the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks between 22:00 and 06:00.

In a defiant speech to the exporters’ union, Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that the park project would go ahead.

“We will rebuild the [Ottoman era military] barracks [at the site],” he said, without referring to the shopping mall that protesters fear will be located there.

Opponents say Gezi Park in Taksim Square is one of the few green areas left in central Istanbul.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed order would be restored “to ensure the safety of people and their property”.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to press ahead with Taksim Gezi Park redevelopment that has sparked violent clashes in central Istanbul

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to press ahead with Taksim Gezi Park redevelopment that has sparked violent clashes in central Istanbul

He said: “Police were there [Taksim Square] yesterday; they’ll be on duty today and also tomorrow because Taksim Square cannot be an area where extremists are running wild.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused protesters of using the issue as an excuse to create tension and called on them to end their action immediately to avoid “further damage to visitors, pedestrians and shopkeepers”.

He said of the protests: “All attempts apart from the ballot box are not democratic”, adding that he could summon a million pro-government protesters if he wanted to.”

However, the prime minister did admit that the police response may have been “excessive” and that “necessary instructions” had been given to the minister of the interior and the governor of Istanbul.

The protest began on Friday as a sit-in over the redevelopment plans but escalated after police used tear gas. A dozen people were admitted to hospital and more than 60 people detained.

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators marched over the bridge connecting the Asian and European shores of Istanbul to try to reach the main square.

Police fired tear gas to try to disperse them and some protesters threw rocks.

Police also fired water cannon and tear gas in Taksim Square as demonstrators chanted “unite against fascism” and “government resign”.

Clashes were also reported in the Besiktas district.

One Istanbul resident, who gave her name as Lily, revealed that police had dropped tear-gas canisters from helicopters overnight.

“About half past one the entire city started to reverberate. People were banging on pots, pans, blowing whistles,” she said.

One woman protesting in Istanbul told Agence France-Presse: “They want to turn this country into an Islamist state, they want to impose their vision all the while pretending to respect democracy.”

In Ankara on Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at a park, many drinking alcohol in protest at the new restrictions.

Some chanting anti-government slogans tried to march on parliament but were dispersed by police.

Many postings on Twitter have complained angrily about the lack of media coverage of the protests within Turkey.

The US has expressed concern over Turkey’s handling of the protests and Amnesty International condemned the police’s tactics.

In his speech, Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the “preaching” of foreign governments, saying they “should first look at their own countries”.

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New protests are under way in Muslim countries against anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims made in the US.

In Pakistan, a government-declared “special day of love” for the Prophet Muhammad has seen violent clashes and at least one death in the northern city of Peshawar, and clashes elsewhere.

The US has paid for adverts on Pakistani TV that show President Barack Obama condemning the film.

There has been widespread unrest over the amateur film, Innocence of Muslims.

The protests have already claimed several lives around the world.

New protests are under way in Muslim countries against anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims made in the US

New protests are under way in Muslim countries against anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims made in the US

Although the US has borne the brunt of protests, anti-Western sentiment has been stoked further by caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

In Peshawar, protesters attacked and ransacked two cinema buildings. A driver for a Pakistani TV station was killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters, seven of whom were reported wounded.

Clashes between police and protesters are also being reported from the cities of Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi.

In the capital Islamabad, which saw fierce clashes between protesters and security forces on Thursday, the security forces have effectively sealed off large parts of the city. Rubber bullets were fired by police during skirmishes at one of the entrances to the city.

Dozens of protests against the film had already been held across Pakistan over the past week – killing at least two people – but Thursday was the first time violence had erupted in the capital.

All major political parties and religious organizations have announced protests for Friday, along with trade and transport groups.

The Pakistani authorities have urged people to demonstrate peacefully, with mobile phone services cut across the country to reduce security risks.

Meanwhile, the US charge d’affaires Richard Hoagland was summoned to the Pakistani Foreign Office and an official protest was lodged with him. He is reported to have responded that the US government had nothing to do with the film.

The US state department has issued a warning against any non-essential travel to Pakistan.

France has closed its embassies and other official offices in about 20 countries across the Muslim world on Friday after French magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including two drawings showing him naked.

French Muslim leaders condemned the magazine and said an appeal for calm would be read in mosques across the country on Friday.

Charlie Hebdo sold out on Wednesday but is publishing another 70,000 copies, to coincide with Friday prayers.

In Tunisia – where France is the former colonial power – the government has banned Friday protests.

Calls to protest against the caricatures have turned up in Tunisian social media. Interior Minister Ali Larayedh said it was believed that some groups were planning violent protests after Friday prayers.

There are also fears of violence in the Libyan city of Benghazi after rival groups said they would take to the streets.

One group intends to denounce extremism and urge militias to disband, following an attack on the US consulate in the city on 11 September that killed the US ambassador and three other American officials.

Throughout the week, Benghazi residents have left wreaths and placards condemning the attack outside the US mission.

Meanwhile, Ansar al-Sharia, the jihadist militia blamed by some local people for the attack, called for protests “in defence of the Prophet Muhammad”. Both protests are scheduled for the same time.

In the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, more than 2,000 people protested peacefully in front of the US embassy.

Some protesters were holding signs insisting that insulting religion was not freedom of speech.

In Cairo, where the protests against the film began, Egyptian security forces are patrolling the streets around the US embassy.

Radical Islamists have clashed with security forces there in recent days, although President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood has stayed away from the unrest, only condemning the film and calling for peaceful demonstrations.

The low-budget film that sparked the controversy was made in the US and is said to insult the Prophet Muhammad.

Its exact origins are unclear and the alleged producer for the trailer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is in hiding.

Anti-US sentiment grew after a trailer for the film dubbed into Arabic was released on YouTube earlier this month.


South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has given details of the commission that will investigate the circumstances around the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine.

The actions of mining company Lonmin, the government, police, unions, and individuals will all be examined.

Thousands of people, some crying uncontrollably, earlier attended a memorial service for the dead.

Thirty-four were shot dead by police during a strike over pay last week.

Previously 10 people, two of them police officers, had died in violent clashes.

Reports of worker action at two other platinum mines have added to industry fears that the unrest is spreading.

The price of platinum has jumped amid concerns about disruptions to supply.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has given details of the commission that will investigate the circumstances around the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has given details of the commission that will investigate the circumstances around the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine

The commission “has been directed to investigate matters of public, national and international concern rising out of the events in Marikana which led to the deaths of approximately 44 people, the injury of more than 70 persons and the arrest of more than 250 people,” Jacob Zuma said in a televised statement.

He said the commission would have the power to enter premises, compel witnesses to appear and demand documents. Not only security issues but issues surrounding labor policies and working conditions would also come under its remit, he added.

Retired appeals court judge Ian Farlam will head the three-person commission, along with two other senior advocates who are also former judges, reported Agence France-Presse.

The commission should complete its work within four months, Jacob Zuma said, and submit a final report a month afterwards.

Rob Davies, South Africa’s trade and industry minister, said the actions of the police would be investigated with “considerable depth”.

“The inquiry will have to establish the chain of responsibility, who did what wrong and hold anybody who did wrong to account. I think that is a correct process in a democratic society – that if actions are taken against people they have to be on the basis of evidence,” said Rob Davies.

The deadly clashes have thrown South Africa into a frenzy of outrage and grief, say correspondents.

Many relatives have asked how the police – faced with strikers wielding machetes and clubs – could have killed so many in response.

There has been a strong police presence around the mine since the dispute erupted but they were noticeably absent for Thursday’s memorial service, correspondents said, probably due to fears that violence could erupt.

But speaker after speaker also turned their ire on the government, they said, amid a perception that some politicians have been trying to make political capital out of the affair – and a suspicion among some that government has been complicit in the killings.

Church leaders from a range of denominations, politicians and thousands of mourners attended the emotional, hymn-filled service. Hundreds crammed inside the memorial marquee and hundreds more outside.

At one point the service was disrupted by green-clad members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), who walked to the front of the marquee brandishing sticks and machetes, but the service soon resumed.

With his government under fire for allegedly putting corporate interests above worker rights, Jacob Zuma has expressed sympathy with some of the grievances expressed by the Marikana miners.

He has argued the mining sector can afford to increase wages and threatened companies that fail to raise workers’ housing standards with the cancellation of their mining licences.

Visiting the mine on Wednesday, Jacob Zuma told workers he “felt their pain” and promised a speedy and thorough investigation of the shootings.

But fears expressed by analysts and industry executives that unrest could spread to other parts of the mining sector were given weight with reports of worker action at two other platinum mines.

The world’s top platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, said it had received a broad list of demands from its South African workers.

Meanwhile, some 500 workers at a shaft in the nearby Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine downed tools on Wednesday, demanding a pay increase and reportedly blocking fellow miners from going to work.

Religious leaders have brokered talks between the Lonmin management and workers in an attempt to break the deadlock in the dispute over pay.

No unions were involved because “they already failed us”, said Zolisa Bodlain, one of five workers who met managers – but the workers vow that they will not back down even without the unions’ help.

Part of the background to this complex dispute is the rivalry between two unions – the long-established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the newly-formed AMCU, which is more militant.

Both will come under scrutiny under the terms of the commission of inquiry set out by the president.