Ankara: Turkey`s deputy prime minister on Wednesday condemned a top aide for attacking an anti-government protester in the wake of the country`s worst ever mining disaster, describing the incident as "catastrophic".
Images of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s advisor Yusuf Yerkel repeatedly kicking a demonstrator as he was held down by two security officers have sparked a nationwide backlash against the government.
"It is a very catastrophic incident," Bulent Arinc said of Yerkel`s actions after a weekly cabinet meeting.
"I am not in a position to defend it, whoever he is," he told reporters.
Yerkel has since apologised, admitting he was "not able to keep my calm in the face of all provocations, attacks and insults".
Turkey`s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has faced mounting public anger over its response to last week`s coalmine blast in the western town of Soma that claimed 301 lives.
Police have fired tear gas and water cannon as thousands have taken to the streets to vent their anger at Ankara.
Critics accused the government of showing no sensitivity to the crisis after Erdogan denied any culpability and said mining accidents are in "the nature of the business."
Strong-man Erdogan, a strong candidate for the presidency in August, was forced to take refuge in a shop when he visited the disaster site last week as he was set upon by an angry crowd, shouting: "Prime minister, resign!"
On Wednesday, ruling and opposition party MPs voted in favour of setting up a 17-member parliamentary commission to investigate the incident.
A ruling party spokesman said last week Yerkel had been signed off sick for seven days by a doctor after being attacked and wounded by the protester.
Local media have since reported that the aide was at Erdogan`s side during scheduled events.
"This is a tragicomic situation," said Arinc, when asked about the doctor`s report.
"When I first heard about it, I thought that he (aide) might have sprained his ankle while kicking".