Riot police on Sunday used tear gas and pepper spray to break up hundreds of Kurdish demonstrators who attacked police with firebombs during unauthorized demonstrations to protest the solitary confinement of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan on a prison island off Istanbul. Kurdish demonstrators were seen throwing firebombs into the streets and at police in separate districts in Istanbul. Police detained more than 10 demonstrators in Istanbul. On Sunday, police also set up road blocks to prevent thousands of other pro-Kurdish demonstrators from reaching the northwestern port town of Gemlik, the port used by Ocalan's lawyers to travel to the prison island of Imrali, and stage an illegal demonstration there.
Paramilitary troops stopped dozens of buses, packed with demonstrators, before they could reach Gemlik in western Bursa province. Ocalan's Kurdish rebel group, Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, seeking indirect dialogue with the Turkish government, announced a cease-fire on Aug. 19 after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a landmark visit to the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, vowed to improve economic conditions and offer greater cultural freedoms for Kurds.
The rebel group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. Turkish officials have not responded to the truce and military officials have repeatedly said that they will fight until all rebels surrender or are killed. The conflict has taken the lives of some 37,000 people since the rebels took up arms for autonomy in Turkey's southeast in 1984.