Istanbul: Turkish riot police today fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of demonstrators in Istanbul protesting against grandiose government construction projects and corruption allegations that have ensnared cabinet ministers.
The protesters gathered in the city`s Kadikoy Square to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Some of the demonstrators held up shoe boxes to show their anger over recent claims of widespread bribery by members of Erdogan`s Islamic-leaning government.
Twenty-four people have been charged so far in connection with the high-profile graft investigation, including the sons of Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, as well as the chief executive of state-owned Halkbank.
Police also seized USD 4.5 million in cash hidden in shoe boxes in Halkbank CEO Suleyman Aslan`s home, local media reported last week.
Erdogan has described the corruption probe, which comes ahead of crucial March municipal polls, as a smear operation against his government, which has been in power since 2002.
He has responded to the probe with a deep purge of the police force, sacking dozens of police officials for cooperating with the investigation without permission.
Ambitious urban development projects led by Erdogan, a former Istanbul mayor, were one cause of the massive anti-government protests in June sparked by a police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in against plans to raze an Istanbul park.
At least six people died and 8,000 were hurt in three weeks of nationwide demos against Erdogan`s conservative policies and creeping authoritarianism.