Jail term sought for Turkish policeman who tear gassed 'lady in red'

ISTANBUL Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:16pm EST

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The "lady in the red dress", hair billowing upwards from the blast of a Turkish policeman's tear gas gun, became a central image of summer anti-government protests across Turkey. Now the policeman faces prosecution demands for a jail term of up to three years, a legal source said on Wednesday.

An indictment accused police officer Fatih Zengin of using excessive force by spraying the woman from less than a meter away even though she had not been engaged in any provocative acts, Turkish media reports said.

The image of Ceyda Sungur, an academic at Istanbul Technical University, being sprayed as she strolled across a central square in a summer dress, bag over shoulder, was shared endlessly on social networking sites and depicted on stickers and posters at protest camps.

June's protests began as a peaceful demonstration against plans to bulldoze a park in central Istanbul, but escalated into an unprecedented show of defiance against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government after police used tear gas and water cannon to try to clear the site.

At least seven people, including a police officer, were killed in unrest which spread to cities around the country, tarnishing Turkey's image abroad and raising concern about Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian style. Erdogan blamed the unrest on a foreign-backed conspiracy.

Erdogan's supporters have cast a corruption scandal shaking his government this month as orchestrated by the same forces.

The graft investigation, which emerged with the detention of businessmen close to the government and three ministers' sons on December 17, has grown into one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan's 11-year rule.

The prosecutor in the "lady in red" case was seeking dismissal for the officer and a prison term of up to three years on the grounds that no warning was issued prior to the incident, the legal source said.

(Editing by Dasha Afanasieva and Ralph Boulton)

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