A video has emerged of Turkey’s prime minister threatened a young man with a slap if he booed him on a visit to a town recovering from a mining disaster.
The video, released by Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, was apparently taken during Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit on Wednesday to the eastern town of Soma – a day after nearly 300 people died as they worked underground.
In the video, Erdogan walks with his bodyguards as Soma residents around him boo. Then he approaches a young man and says: “If you boo this country’s prime minister, you get slapped.”
The accident in Soma has been controversial not only because of lax safety standard accusations targeting the government, but also incidents involving an aide of Erdogan and the prime minister himself during his Soma visit.
Photos showing Yusuf Yerkel, an adviser to Erdogan, kicking a protester held down by Turkish police during the visit emerged earlier in the week.
Confirming the photo’s authenticity, Yerkel said in a press statement on Thursday that he was sorry “he could not keep his calm in the face of the provocations” in Soma.
Erdogan featured in earlier videos of a particular incident in which he is alleged to have slapped a citizen in Soma.
Shaky videos with different angles taken in a chaotic and crowded atmosphere make it difficult to detect the exact circumstances of the incident. However, in the beginning of one of the videos, Erdogan is seen saying, “Come and boo to my face,” while walking among angry crowds who are chanting for his resignation.
Then he enters a market shop where the alleged slapping took place.
The Soma man, named Taner Kuruca, talked to the national media after the incident and said Erdogan did not mean to slap him, calling the action “involuntary”. He added that he was not a protester.
He told Turkish media: “I was not one of the protesters. I came face to face with the prime minister. As his bodyguards started to push, the prime minister unfortunately did something involuntarily and slapped me while I was walking backwards, because he was angry at the crowd and he could not control himself.”
Protests have taken place in various Turkish cities as the extent of the disaster, with at least 298 deaths, becomes clear. Demonstrations have targeted mine owners, accusing them of ignoring safety standards and Erdogan’s government of being too close to businessmen and insensitive to the tragedy.
In the days following the accident, police clashed with protesters in Turkey’s three biggest cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir as well as other ones.
The Turkish company that owns the mine has defended its safety record and senior Turkish officials have denied allegations of poor government oversight. [AlJazeera]