ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he would revive plans to redevelop a park in central Istanbul, three years after they triggered large-scale anti-government protests.
Four people were killed and about 7,500 people wounded during a police crackdown in June 2013 against the protests, the Turkish Medical Association said at the time, in a major challenge to the rule of Erdogan, who was then prime minister.
The plans to build a mosque, a replica of an Ottoman-era military barracks and a shopping mall were then put on hold while the government and its critics fought over the issue in the courts.
Critics of the plans said they would destroy one of the few green areas of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub which already boasts a large number of shopping malls as well as mosques.
In a speech at a ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan stressed his wish to build a replica of the barracks, a mosque and also an opera house, though he made no mention of the shopping mall.
“One of the areas where we need to be courageous is Taksim Gezi Park ... If we are going to reclaim our history, there was a historical building there, we will rebuild it,” he said, referring to the barracks.
“Whether it will be a history museum or a city museum, we need to do this,” said Erdogan, a pious Muslim who often extols the glories of Turkey’s Ottoman past.
Since the 2013 protests Erdogan has further strengthened his grip on power and is now trying to introduce a powerful executive presidency.
His critics accuse him of authoritarian behavior, one of the main charges made against him at the time of the Gezi protests.
Reporting by Seda Sezer