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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 12:02 GMT
Turkish police beatings shock EU
Turkish police beat protester
Images of police beating protesters shocked the EU
The European Union has expressed shock and concern at the "disproportionate force" used by Turkish police during a protest in Istanbul.

Police used truncheons and tear gas to break up Sunday's demonstration ahead of International Women's Day.

The EU, which has told Turkey it must continue with political reforms, said:

"On the eve of a visit by the EU during which the rights of women will be an important issue, we are concerned to see such disproportionate force used."

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and British Europe minister Denis MacShane are in Turkey for talks.

It is the first such meeting since the European Council decided in December to open membership negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005.

"We were shocked by images of the police beating women and young people demonstrating in Istanbul," the three EU representatives said in a joint statement.

"We condemn all violence, as demonstrations must be peaceful."

Bold reforms

About 300 people gathered for the unauthorised demonstration on Sunday, chanting anti-government slogans and demanding equal rights for women.

Women protesters
The EU is concerned about women's rights in Turkey

After about 100 refused to follow police orders to disperse, officers armed with tear gas and truncheons charged on the crowd, say reports.

Police were seen beating and kicking the men and women trying to flee.

Mr Rehn has praised Turkey for starting reforms to improve its human rights record. But he said on Sunday the country should not lose momentum in implementing the changes it has introduced.

"Turkey has done very bold and significant reforms to improve human rights, and it is understandable that there is a breathing phase," said Mr Rehn after meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

"But it is extremely important Turkey keep up the momentum in legal, political and increasingly economic reforms."

Critics say the country's willingness to improve its human rights record weakened after the deal was agreed.

Implementation

Mr Rehn said the government needed to ensure that torture was stamped out, women's rights were broaden and non-Muslim minorities were protected.

Mr Gul stressed that Turkey was committed to following through on the changes.

"The reforms will continue. There is no end to the improvements. It's not just passing [the reforms] in parliament, implementation is important," he said.

Mr Rehn also said Turkey had agreed to sign a protocol agreement that took the country a step closer towards recognising arch-rival and EU member Cyprus.


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