Turkish Prime Minister’s violent aide Yerkel sacked at last

The image of Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protester that went viral. A government official said Yerkel apologised 'but it was too late'. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Turkish PM’s aide who kicked protester during mining protests sacked

Image of Yusuf Yerkel kicking protester on visit to Soma went viral and came to symbolise government’s botched handling of crisis

Martin Williams

Saturday 24 May 2014 14.02 BST

The Turkish prime ministerial aide photographed kicking a grieving protester at the site of the country’s worst mining disaster has been fired.

Yusuf Yerkel was pictured lashing out at the man, who was already being restrained on the ground, during anti-government demonstrations after the accident which claimed the lives of 301 miners.

The image of him kicking the man went viral on social media and came to symbolise the Turkish government’s widely criticised handling of the disaster.

A government official said Yerkel was finally fired this week. He told Reuters: “Yusuf Yerkel apologised but it was too late. At the end of the discussion the prime minister fired him directly.”

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had previously refused to sack him, saying it was a private matter, and his ministers defended Yerkel’s attack. Erdoğan’s main political adviser, Yalçin Akdogan, said it had been an act of “self-defence against those who kicked [official] vehicles and tried to lynch the delegation”. He also criticised an “irresponsible press” for using the photograph to “make [the protests] look like a massive uprising against the government”.

After the incident Yerkel went on sick leave, having been diagnosed with soft tissue trauma in the leg he used to kick the protester. A medical report said he was suffering from “sensitivity with leg and arm movements and difficulty with walking”, according to the newspaper Hürriyet. Yerkel had reportedly told doctors he had fallen.

After initially refusing to apologise, Yerkel said he was “sorry for being unable to keep calm”.

The deputy prime minister, Hüseyin Çelik, also defended Yerkel.

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