Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday claimed victory over anti-government protesters after a heavy crackdown, as police raided homes and arrested dozens of demonstrators in a bid to stamp out nearly three weeks of unrest.
After a weekend of clashes sparked by the eviction of protesters from Istanbul’s Gezi Park, the focal point of the protests, demonstrators have struggled to regroup and police have since fought only sporadic battles with smaller groups of demonstrators across the country.
Overnight, riot police in the capital Ankara briefly fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters who hurled back stones and hid behind makeshift barricades, but there were no other reports of confrontations.
In Istanbul, dozens of demonstrators switched to silent protests, standing still in quiet defiance in the main Taksim Square located next to Gezi Park.
As the protests appeared to lose their intensity, Erdogan said he had overcome the crisis, seen as the biggest challenge yet to his Islamic-rooted government’s decade-long rule.
Erdogan has been widely criticised for his handling of the turmoil, with the United States and other Western allies strongly condemning the use of excessive police force against protesters.
But the premier said the police had “successfully passed the test of democracy” with their response to the unrest and vowed to increase their powers.
His comments came as police carried out raids at homes across the country, detaining over 100 demonstrators.
In Istanbul, officers arrested around 90 members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), a small leftist group that has been active in the demos, the Istanbul bar association said.
Local media said 30 people were also arrested in Ankara and another 13 in the north-western city of Eskisehir.
More than 500 demonstrators had already been arrested on Sunday in clashes that raged after the Gezi Park eviction, the Istanbul and Ankara bar associations said.
Meanwhile, Hurriyet Daily News reported that the justice ministry was working on legislation to regulate social media, heavily used by demonstrators to organise the protests.