Turkish police detain seven protesters in and around Istanbul park

ISTANBUL Sun Jul 28, 2013 5:03pm EDT

1 of 5. Riot police scuffle with demonstrators during an anti-government protest in central Istanbul July 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Murad Sezer

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police detained three people on Sunday after a group of protesters tried to hold an Islamic fast-breaking meal in a park in central Istanbul that has been the flashpoint for anti-government demonstrations.

At least four more people were detained a few hours later following the iftar, the dinner held each evening during the holy month of Ramadan, which was organized by protesters on a street nearby, witnesses said.

They said police backed by armored vehicles approached the crowd in order to disperse it, and people began shouting slogans.

The iftar, attended by hundreds of people, was supposed to be have been held at Gezi Park, the green space where protests first erupted in May, but police blocked the main entrance to the park.

Gezi re-opened earlier this month after authorities cleared out thousands of protesters who had occupied it in June to prevent its demolition and the construction of a replica army barracks that were originally to house a mall.

The small environmental movement quickly mushroomed into the largest demonstrations Turkey has seen in three decades, and five people were killed in clashes with police.

Protesters were angered by what they saw as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarian style and increasing religious conservatism after his party spent 10 years in office.

The plan to raze Gezi has been suspended by an Istanbul court, and Erdogan has said he will respect the judiciary's decision. Sporadic clashes still occur near Gezi as police intervene in planned demonstrations.

(Reporting by Osman Orsal, writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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