Turkish teen protester with shattered skull sentenced to jail

A picture taken on June 15, 2013 shows riot police using a water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters at Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul. A Turkish teenager who survived a severe head injury inflicted by the police in last year's
A picture taken on June 15, 2013 shows riot police using a water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters at Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul. A Turkish teenager who survived a severe head injury inflicted by the police in last year's anti-government protests was sentenced to more than three months in jail, local media reported on Thursday. -- PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - A Turkish teenager who survived a severe head injury inflicted by the police in last year's anti-government protests was sentenced to more than three months in jail, local media reported on Thursday.

Mustafa Ali Tonbul, 17, lost a large portion of his skull after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police during Gezi Park protests that swept Istanbul in May-June 2013.

A juvenile court sentenced Tonbul and four of his friends to three months and 10 days in prison for "resisting police" in another demonstration in the western city of Izmir in support of the Gezi protests - two weeks before he was injured.

Last year's protests started as a relatively small environmentalist movement to save the Gezi Park, but evolved into a nationwide wave of protests against the perceived authoritarian tendencies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then premier.

Tonbul, who lives in Izmir, said he had travelled to Istanbul for a concert and was visiting Gezi Park "out of curiosity" when police cracked down heavily on peaceful protesters.

The confrontation left his head shattered and doctors had to hack away huge chunks in a battle to save his life.

His heart stopped a few times in the hospital, where he remained in a coma for weeks and spent almost a month in intensive care. He now suffers from seizures, memory loss and speech impairments.

The teenager said he would continue to resist "even if it means receiving a life sentence."

"I was expecting such a decision, but what I did was not a crime. They try to frighten us with such verdicts but I am not afraid of them," he was quoted as saying by Milliyet newspaper.

Eight people died and thousands were injured as police launched a brutal crackdown, frequently employing tear gas and water cannon.

Among the victims was another teenager, 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who died of injuries sustained during the unrest, becoming a symbol of heavy-handed tactics used by police to quash the protests.