Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said a teenager who died this week after sustaining a head injury in anti-government protests last summer was linked to “terrorist organizations”, in comments likely to fan political tensions.
The death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan on Tuesday after nine months in a coma sparked Turkey’s worst unrest since nationwide anti-government demonstrations last June, compounding Erdogan’s woes as he battles a graft scandal that has become one of the biggest challenges of his decade in power.
Erdogan made his remarks, his first about Elvan, late on Friday at a campaign rally in southeast Turkey ahead of nationwide municipal elections on March 30.
“This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organizations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas,” Erdogan told a crowd of supporters in a speech broadcast on state-run TRT-Haber news channel.
“How could the police determine how old that person was who had a scarf on his face and was hurling steel marbles with a slingshot in his hand?”
Elvan, then 14, got caught up in street battles in Istanbul on June 16 while going to buy bread for his family. He was hit in the head by what is believed to be a police gas canister, slipped into a coma and became a rallying point for government opponents, who held regular vigils at the hospital where he lay in intensive care…
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Erdogan is losing it.