By Sarah Barchus
Police used water cannons to control several thousand Kurdish protesters marching to a prison in southeastern Turkey Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.
The Kiyarbakir prison is one of dozens where inmates linked to Kurdish rebels are on hunger strikes to protest the jail conditions of rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan and to demand more rights for Kurds, the Star Tribune reported.
The clash followed Monday's episode when Turkish riot police also fired water cannons and tear gas at opposition groups during a Republic Day rally, the Cable News Network reported.
The governor of Ankara banned the rally planned by groups unsupportive of Turkey's Islamist-rooted government. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party, the largest opposition party in Turkey, and others marched on, CNN reported.
Kilicdaroglu addressed the gathering of several thousand, which was held a few minutes away from the Ankara fair grounds where the Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the government's traditional Republic Day parade, CNN reported.
Activists said that around noon, riot police started firing water cannons and tear gas at the crowd, CNN reported.
"This is the shameful face or our alleged democracy," Alper Kafa, an opposition party activist and general director of the Association of Public Conservatory Graduates said on the phone with CNN. "On the 89th anniversary of our great leader's foundation of the republic, in the place where he made the declaration, they used gas against the people. It is so very sad."
Prime Minister Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party won the parliamentary elections 10 years ago. Since then, Erodgan has expanded the economy and curbed the military's power over Turkish politics, but has been criticized for his authoritarian policies by human rights and freedom of expression groups, CNN reported.
"To ban even a small innocent rally. ... To think that any rally is essentially a hidden effort to overthrow the government, which is the paranoia in Ankara right now, points to an autocratic mindset," Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist with the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet, said, CNN reported.
Erdogan said the rebels, which Turkey and its Western allies view as terrorists, are using the hunger strikes as blackmail and that the government will not bow to it, the Star Tribune reported.