Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returns to his country Thursday, after spending several days in North Africa as protesters at home called for his resignation.
Government plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul sparked the protests last Friday that have turned into demonstrations against Erdogan. Critics accuse him of governing in an authoritarian manner and imposing his Islamic views on a secular nation.
The prime minister has dismissed the protests as bitterness by the opposition over lost elections, and said the demonstrators had no support among most Turks.
The deputy head of Erdogan’s party, Huseyin Celik, urged supporters not to mass at the airport Thursday to show support for the prime minister.
Police used tear gas to break up protesters Wednesday night in central Ankara, while Istanbul was mainly quiet.
Earlier Wednesday, protesters gave Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc a list of demands, including firing officials responsible for using force against the marchers.
Two people have been killed, thousands hurt, and thousands of others arrested since last week. Arinc has apologized for the police response.
The protesters also demanded freedom for all those who have been jailed, and for the government to halt its plans to build on the park site.
(Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: World Economic Forum)