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Turkish President Erdogan 'talks man out of jumping off bridge'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office has claimed that Erdogan talked a man out of commiting suicide by leaping from Istanbul's Bosporus Bridge. But the story has drawn some skepticism.

Television footage showed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's motorcade stopping on Istanbul's busy Bosporus Bridge, at a spot where a man was apparently contemplating suicide. The man in the recording was allegedly preparing to jump to his death when Erdogan's aides got out of the car and told the man that the president wanted to speak with him.

News footage then showed Erdogan's bodyguards escorting the crying man to talk to the president through the window of his car. It appears in the video that Erdogan did not leave the vehicle but let the individual lean into the car. After a few moments, the man is seen kissing Erdogan's hand - a Turkish custom symbolizing respect and deference.

Erdogan's motorcade was passing over the bridge linking Istanbul's European side with its Asian side after the president had attended Friday prayers at a mosque on the European side of the city.

Good Samaritan?

The state-controlled Dogan news agency identified the man on the bridge as Vezir Catras, a worker in the textile industry. Dogan added that police had supposedly been trying to talk the man off the ledge of the bridge for two hours after he had abandoned his car and climbed over the railing, adding that he was later escorted to safety

Vezir Catras

The man identified as Vezir Catras was said to be depressed because of family problems

An official from Erdogan's office told The Associated Press news agency that the man had apparently been depressed on account of family issues. The Associated Press also reported that the official from Erdogan's office, who only spoke on the condition of anonymity, had told them that Erdogan had promised the man to get him the help he needed. Turkey's state-run Anadolu Ajansi news agency confirmed this.

The Bosporus Bridge, completed in 1973, spans across the iconic narrows at a height of 64 meters (211 feet). Suicides have been carried out from the bridge repeatedly.

Hotly debated on social media

State-controlled Dogan news agency said that Vezir Catras had sent out some negative tweets in the past days, including "Istanbul has finished me" - but this could not be independently verified, as the Twitter account has since been deactivated.

According to Dogan, Catras's Twitter account had also featured several tweets in praise of President Erdogan, leading some to question the veracity of the event. Many tweeted their suspicions about Ankara's account of the encounter by saying it looked staged.

However, Erdogan's supporters also reacted to this level of scrutiny. One Twitter user responded in German that if the same event had been reported with German President Joachim Gauck as the protagonist, people would have erupted in cheer. When it comes to Erdogan, he said, they look for a reason to hold the episode against him.

ss/gsw (AP, AFP)

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