Turkish protesters party in square despite ruling party call

Wed Jun 12, 2013 7:15pm EDT
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* Ruling party says protesters must leave

* Offers referendum on plans for Gezi Park

* Protesters party on Taksim Square late into night

* Unrest sparked by crackdown on peaceful demonstration

By Nick Tattersall and Jonathon Burch

ISTANBUL/ANKARA, June 13 (Reuters) - Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators chanted and sang in Istanbul's Taksim Square early on Thursday, defying an order to end almost two weeks of protests against Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The deputy chairman of Erdogan's ruling AK Party, Huseyin Celik, said late on Wednesday that the protesters should withdraw from Gezi Park, a leafy corner of the square where they have set up a ramshackle settlement of tents.

At the same time, he made a concession by offering a referendum on the redevelopment plans that sparked the unrest.

A heavy-handed police crackdown on Gezi Park nearly two weeks ago triggered an unprecedented wave of protest against the perceived authoritarianism of Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party, drawing in a broad alliance of secularists, nationalists, professionals, unionists and students.   Continued...