ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A video showing an aide to Turkey's prime minister kicking a protester held on the ground by special forces police sparked outrage Thursday, tarnishing the Turkish leader's image ahead of his expected run for president.
Turkish newspapers also published photographs showing the adviser kicking the protester and identified him as Yusuf Yerkel, a deputy chief of staff at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office and adviser to the prime minister.
The incident occurred during Erdogan's visit Wednesday to a coal mine in the western town of Soma where at least 283 miners were killed in Turkey's worst mining disaster. Scores of others are still missing.
Angry protesters heckled Erdogan and scuffles broke out between demonstrators and police in Soma, forcing the Turkish leader to take refuge in a supermarket before being driven off in a black vehicle.
Hurriyet newspaper said a protester kicked a vehicle in Erdogan's convoy, prompting the special forces police to jump in and force the man to the ground. Yerkel then kicked the protester "three or four times," the paper said.
Yerkel issued a statement Thursday that expressed regret but also claimed that he was provoked.