White House voices ‘serious concerns’ over violent crackdown in Turkey

The White House on Monday voiced "serious concerns" over reports of violent crackdowns on protesters in Turkey, calling on the Middle Eastern ally to fully investigate the use of force against civilians.

"We continue to follow the events in Turkey closely and with concern," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

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Carney added that peaceful protest was "fundamental to any democracy," but said the United States would continue to work with Turkey’s government on issues in the region.

"Turkey is a very important ally," he said. "All democracies have issues that they need to work through. And we would expect the government to work through this in a way that respects the rights of their citizens."

The Associated Press reported Monday that police in Turkey had used tear gas for the fourth consecutive day to disperse demonstrators protesting the government’s plans to develop historic Taksim Square in the center of Istanbul.

The protests are seen as a challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom opponents say has taken an increasingly authoritarian role.

"We believe that the vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful, law-abiding, ordinary citizens exercising their rights," Carney said. "The United States has serious concerns about the reports of excessive use of force by police and large numbers of injuries and damage to property."

Earlier Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was troubled by the number of individuals who had been injured in the protests and had lodged those concerns with Turkish officials.

"The United States supports full freedom of expression and assembly, including the right of people to peaceful protest, because that is fundamental to any democracy," Kerry said.

"We are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police," he said. "We obviously hope there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force with respect to those incidents."