Thousands hold anti-government demo in Istanbul

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Thousands gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday to protest against the harsh police treatment of demonstrators whose anti-government rallies have rocked the country for nearly a month.

Riot police blocked off the centre of the square, the symbolic heart of the nationwide protest movement, for some two hours as the demonstrators chanted "Government, resign!" but there was no fresh violence.

The crowd also denounced the death of a demonstrator in the country's Kurdish-dominated south-east on Friday after soldiers opened fire to disperse villagers protesting against the expansion of an army outpost.

Turkey's turmoil was sparked by a police crackdown on a small protest to save Istanbul's Gezi Park, next to Taksim Square, on May 31.

The violence spiralled into nationwide outpourings of anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

Some 2.5 million people have taken to the streets in dozens of cities across the country since then, according to the most recent police estimates, representing the biggest challenge yet to the government's decade-long rule.

The demonstrations have left four people dead and nearly 8,000 injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association, though the violence has eased since police evicted protesters from Gezi Park two weeks ago.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.