Turkey's prime minister has shown little sign of backing down as he returned to a country rocked by protests against his rule. Thousands have been injured in the rallies, which broke out over plans to redevelop a park.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned home to a cheering crowd of thousands of his supporters as he arrived at Istanbul's international airport in the early hours of Friday.
The prime minister took the opportunity to condemn several days of rallies which began as strictly peaceful protests against plans to redevelop a park in Turkey's largest city, but quickly developed into general protests against his government.
"These protests that are bordering on illegality must come to an end as of now," Erdogan told the crown, which was estimated at more than 10,000.
"We have never been for building tension and polarization. But we cannot applaud brutality," the prime minister said, adding that he derived his authority from the ballot box.
"Some people say, 'the prime minister is only prime minister to 50 percent'. We have always said that we are the servants of 76 million," he said, as much of the crowd chanted his name.
He also used the speech to call on his supporters to remain calm and not allow themselves to be drawn into violence against their political opponents.
It wasn't immediately clear, though, whether all would heed his words.
"Let us go and smash them," some chanted, in an apparent threat to the prime minister's opponents.
Anti-government protests continue
As Erdogan addressed his supporters at the airport, there appeared to be no sign that the protests against him and his Islamist-rooted AK Party were about to end any time soon.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul's central Taksim Square for a sixth consecutive day on Thursday, with many chanting slogans demanding that the prime minister resign. More than 10,000 others took part in a rally in the capital, Ankara.
Demonstrations have been reported in dozens of cities across the country over the past few days, in which protesters have vented their anger over what they perceive as increasing arrogance and authoritarianism on the part of the prime minister.
Three people have been killed and more than 4,000 injured in clashes between police and protesters since the demonstrations first broke out. Many of the injured have been forced to seek medical attention for the effects of tear gas fired by police in an effort to break up the rallies.
pfd/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)