UPDATE 3 – Tight security marks Turkish May Day rallies


By Adem Demir, Andac Hongur and Alptekin Soykan

ISTANBUL (AA) – One man died and 231 people were detained during May Day demonstrations in Turkey, which also saw widespread security measures, including the deployment of around 24,500 police officers on Istanbul streets, backed by helicopters.

According to a statement issued by the Istanbul Security Department, 231 people were detained for holding unauthorized demonstrations in the port city.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office earlier issued a statement saying that some groups wanted to march towards Taksim Square in Istanbul as well as in other parts of the city but officers intervened across several neighborhoods, including Sisli, Besiktas, Beyoglu, Zeytinburnu, Bakirkoy, Kucukcekmece, Atasehir, Sultangazi and Sancaktepe.

Police also seized 191 Molotov cocktails, 17 improvised explosives, 176 fireworks, seven masks, a blank gun, seven paint canisters and a large number of illegal documents and banners.

The governor’s office statement added that one person was also killed Sunday morning in an accident involving a riot police vehicle.

“One person was killed in the morning hours when a riot police vehicle was being maneuvered. We wish God’s mercy on our citizen who lost his life in this deplorable accident,” it said.

Demonstrations in Istanbul were allowed to take place in an open area of the Bakirkoy neighborhood on the city’s European side. However, gatherings at the city’s famous Taksim Square were banned by authorities.

Public transport in Istanbul was affected, with several roads to Bakirkoy being closed to traffic. Taksim’s metro station was also shut down.

Thousands of members and supporters of Turkish labor unions were checked by police before they were allowed to enter the Bakirkoy site. Roads to the rally point and streets near the area were closed off with barricades.

In the capital Ankara, police detained five people suspected of trying to infiltrate the May 1 International Labor Day rally.

Turkish security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking with the media, told Anadolu Agency that Ankara police and intelligence department detained four suspects at an intercity bus terminal, known as ASTI, Sunday.

The four reportedly came from Syria and carried Iraqi passports. A woman linked to the four suspects was also held. The suspects were transferred to the city’s anti-terror department for questioning.

Turkish security officials told Anadolu Agency that Ankara anti-terrorism department had also detained four Daesh suspects at midnight Saturday.

Saturday’s arrests followed technical and physical surveillance and it is reported that the suspects are from Syria.

Over 4,000 police officers were on duty in Ankara. Security measures were also tightened in Kolej circle, near Kizilay in the city center, where May Day demonstrations took place.

May 1 is celebrated by many labor unions and workers worldwide. May Day is generally a public holiday in many countries, including Turkey.

*Anadolu Agency Correspondents Hale Turkes, Can Erozden and Diyar Guldogan contributed to this story from Ankara.