(Adds details, background)
ISTANBUL Feb 8 Police fired water cannon and
teargas to disperse hundreds of people protesting in central
Istanbul on Saturday against new controls on the Internet
approved by parliament this week.
The new powers, once approved by the president, will let
authorities block web pages within hours, in what the opposition
has said is part of a government bid to stifle discussion of a
Riot police advanced along Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue behind
armoured vehicles firing water cannon at protesters, some of
whom waved flags and held up placards.
Some demonstrators responded by throwing stones or setting
off fireworks aimed at police before scattering into side
"Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption," some
chanted, in a variation of an anti-government slogan used by
demonstrators in protests across the country last summer.
The government says the Internet reform, sent to parliament
before the graft inquiry became public late last year but
broadened in recent weeks, is aimed at protecting individual
privacy and not gagging its critics.
The corruption scandal erupted on Dec. 17 with the arrest of
businessmen close to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and three
ministers' sons, and has grown into one of the biggest threats
to his 11-year rule.
Since the scandal broke, Erdogan's government has purged
hundreds of police, sought tighter control of the courts and
fired executives from banking and telecoms regulators and state
Erdogan says the scandal is an attempt by a U.S.-based
cleric with influence in the police and judiciary to unseat him.
The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the allegations.
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by
Andrew Heavens and Stephen Powell)