Turkish police fire teargas at gay activists

Turkish police detained 19 people and fired teargas and rubber pellets to disperse dozens of activists attempting to gather in Istanbul on Sunday to mark gay pride week after authorities banned their march.

A German MP and a member of the European parliament were also briefly detained while police chased activists into side streets and blocked them from gathering and reading out a statement.

Organisers called off Sunday’s annual pride march after authorities did not allow the event to go ahead but deployed hundreds of riot police near Taksim square in the city centre.

Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag and a veteran gay rights activist, was among those briefly detained. Two other German citizens were also detained.

“They did nothing wrong. They were put into a police car,” he said. “It is a fair and democratic right in Turkey as well as Germany and I cannot understand that such threatening of an MP can – happen in front of the police.”

The Istanbul governor banned the march earlier this month, citing concern for public order. Security in the city is tight after recent bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants. A nationalist youth group had also threatened violence if the march went ahead.

While homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, homophobia remains widespread. Critics say the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his AK party have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, women and gay people.

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