A US-based opposition leader heavily critical of Erdogan has been put on trial in absentia in Istanbul. Meanwhile, the president went on television to address the growing unrest in the country.
Fethullah Gülen, a Pennslyvania-based Muslim cleric who has emerged as one of President Tayyip Erdogan's fiercest critics, was not present at the start of his trial on Wednesday, in which he stands accused along with 68 others of attempting to overthrow the government.
Prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment for Gülen, who denies the accusations and asked the Istanbul court to dismiss the case. Even though he lives abroad, the cleric has built up a large network of followers in Turkey, including many in the government and police force, and has been accused of leading corruption charges against Erdogan and his son, among others, in December 2013.
Erdogan has asserted that Gülen is running a terrorist organization that essentially functions as a parallel state seeking to overthrow him. The two men used to be political allies.
Erdogan calls for action
Also on Wednesday, Erdogan delivered a speech to local officials in which he accused some pro-Kurdish groups of acting like terrorist organizations. His words came as tensions have mounted between Ankara and the largely Kurdish southeastern region of the country, where the liberation group Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has a strong foothold.
"In Turkey there is no Kurdish issue but a terrorism issue. All ethnic minorities have problems of their own and we have always tried to solve these," Erdogan said, according to Reuters news agency. He added that the state must take further legal action against such groups.
Additionally, Erdogan declined to condemn Saudi Arabia amid its ongoing dispute with Iran following the execution of a Shiite cleric, calling the decision an internal matter.
Violence unfurled in Istanbul the same day Erdogan delivered his speech, as a Turkish police patrol reportedly came under fire in the central district of Beyoglu. One police officer was hospitalized but was in a stable condition.
Meanwhile, police clashed with pro-Kurdish demonstrators in Istanbul, using tear gas to disperse the protestors, DPA news agency reported.
Some of the protestors reportedly waved placards calling Erdogan a "murderer."
blc/msh (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)