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US rebukes Turkey over Taksim Square crackdown

Protestors clash with police on May 31, 2013, during a protest against the demolishing a park in Taksim Square, Istanbul
Protestors clash with Turkish riot policemen on May 31, 2013, during a protest against the demolition of the Taksim Gezi Park, in Taksim Square, in Istanbul.

The United States issued a rare rebuke Friday to its ally Turkey over its crackdown on environmentalists in Istanbul angry at plans to raze a park across from the city's Taksim Square.

"We are concerned about the number of people who were injured when police dispersed protesters in Istanbul's Gezi Park," said State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki.

"We believe that Turkey's long-term stability, security and prosperity is best guaranteed by upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing.

"These freedoms are crucial to any healthy democracy," Psaki added.

Riot police in Istanbul used tear gas and water cannons earlier to break up the protest, which spiraled into a wider outcry against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian government.

Dozens were injured in the demonstration against controversial plans to remove the park to build a shopping mall.