Washington has condemned the use of “unprovoked violence” against protests during a visit by officials to disaster-hit mining town Soma last week, in the wake of an accident that claimed 301 victims.
“We saw the range of videos that have emerged. We reject the apparent use of unprovoked violence against demonstrators and urge accountability according to Turkey’s rule of law,” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on May 19.
Asked about footage that surfaced last week showing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan engaging in scuffles with protesters during his eventful visit to Soma one day after the mine blast, Psaki said Washington had seen those reports.
“I don’t have the specific language. Obviously, if offensive comments were made, we’d of course condemn those. But I think there’s some confusion on that front,” she said.
In one video, Erdoğan is seen singling out a protester in the crowd, telling him “if you boo the prime minister of this country, you deserve a slap.”
He is seen in other videos grabbing the neck of another man, and allegedly using a racial slur, though his exact words are difficult to discern due to the noise coming from the crowd. Other photographs have also emerged showing one of his advisers, Yusuf Yerkel, kicking a mourner.
Meanwhile, Psaki also said the United States was ready to provide assistance to Turkey, but added that no such request had been made by Ankara.
The Soma disaster has triggered debate on workers’ condition and labor regulations, and the first arrests have been made in the official probe into the accident.