Turkish Interior Ministry to pay over $271,000 to man blinded in anti-government rally

November 13, 2017 2:00 am
Burak Ünveren, a lecturer at Yildiz Technical University
The Turkish Interior Ministry is going to pay over 270,000 dollars to an academic who went blind in one eye during a heavy-handed police crackdown on a demonstration against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) back in June 2013.
Burak Ünveren, a lecturer at Yildiz Technical University, lost his eye when Turkish security forces fired a tear gas canister during a protest at Gezi Park in the country’s most populous city of Istanbul.
The Istanbul 4th Administrative Court ruled on Monday that police forces must not use excessive force when they intervene to contain protests, and tear gas canisters must be fired at medium range, rather than close range.
“It is clear that the intervention crossed the line in injuring Ünveren, who was not even participating in the protest. Therefore, compensation must be paid for the loss caused by firing a tear gas canister directly into the victim’s face,” the ruling stated.
The court then ordered the Turkish Interior Ministry to pay Ünveren 555,197 liras ($143,129) in material damages, and 500,000 liras ($128,900) in moral damages, stating that the incident incurred a 37-percent loss on the victim’s earnings.
Ünveren’s lawyer Ayhan Erdoğan objected to the ruling, arguing, “The compensation ordered is not enough considering that my client lost one of his eyes.”
On May 31, 2013, Turkish police broke up a sit-in at Istanbul’s Taksim Square against the controversial proposed demolition of Gezi Park in the city.
Nationwide demonstrations were launched against the ruling AK Party and then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is currently the country’s president, with police using water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators.
Erdogan, who came under fire over the heavy-handed handling of the demonstrations, described the protesters as vandals, looters or terrorists, and alleged the demonstrations were part of a plot to topple his government.
Eight people died and hundreds were injured in the protests. The Turkish government also arrested many activists, among them high school students, on allegations of inciting unrest.
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