Turkish student throws shoe at IMF chief

ISTANBUL (Reuters) -A Turkish student threw a shoe at International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn Thursday as he made a speech to students in Istanbul ahead of the IMF’s annual meeting.

Hundreds of protesters from left-wing parties and unions marched peacefully through central Istanbul, chanting anti-IMF slogans. Security has been stepped up across the city ahead of the IMF and World Bank annual meetings, which begin Saturday with a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers.

Security guards dragged Selcuk Ozbek, 24 -- who is also a journalist at small left-wing newspaper Birgun -- away after he threw a white sports shoe and rushed toward the stage. The shoe landed at the feet of Strauss-Kahn.

“Get out of the university, thief IMF,” Ozbek shouted during Strauss-Kahn’s speech at Istanbul’s Bilgi University as part of the IMF-World Bank events.

A female student, who tried to unfurl a protest banner, was also dragged away by security guards.

Strauss-Kahn shrugged off the incident.

“It is important for us to have an open debate. I was glad to meet students and hear their views. This is what the IMF needs to do, even if not everyone agrees with us, one thing I learned, Turkish students are polite. They waited until the end to complain,” he said in a statement.

The incident echoed that of an Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes, a grave insult in the Muslim world, at then U.S. President George W. Bush last December.

Up to 30 students started chanting slogans against the IMF and Turkey’s AK Party government, such as “collaborators AKP” outside the university as police took Ozbek away in a car.

Police detained some of the protesters at Bilgi University.

“Throwing a shoe exceeds the limits. This is sad for us. Turkey is hosting an important meeting and we have to pass it well,” Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay told reporters.

He said security measures had been taken for the IMF-World Bank meetings.

“He (Strauss-Kahn) is the representative of global capitalism. I tried to raise my views by protesting against him at a time education and health services here have been privatized,” student Emre Avci, a member of the Turkish Communist Party, who was among the protesters, told Reuters.

There is significant opposition among Turkish students to the IMF, which helped bail Turkey out of a financial crisis in 2001. Ankara and the IMF are negotiating a possible new loan agreement after the last one expired last year.

“As we are a left-wing newspaper, we congratulate him (Ozbek) on his protest,” Baris Ince, news editor at Birgun newspaper, told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; writing by Daren Butler and Paul de Bendern; Editing by Janet Lawrence