French police facing probe for violence during protests

By Yusuf Ozcan

PARIS (AA) – French prosecutors launched Wednesday a preliminary probe into alleged police violence after a video showing police tripping a pension reform protestor went viral, according to local media.

General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN), France's police watchdog group, will investigate the video, allegedly recorded in Toulouse on Jan. 9, and the police violence during protests, the daily LeMonde reported.

Police violence in France has been a subject of controversy since the Yellow Vest protests which started in Nov. 17, 2018 and continue to be the main focus because of the ongoing pension reform protests since Dec. 5.

On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron said some officers show “unacceptable behaviors,” however, it is not right to say that all police officers used violence against protesters.

“I expect the highest ethical principals from our police officials. I have asked the interior minister to make very concrete proposals in this regard,” France24 quoted the president as saying.

In the recent year, a protestor died of police violence, 26 people lost their eyes, and nearly 500 others were injured during the demonstrations.

Anadolu Agency photojournalist Mustafa Yalcin was wounded on Dec. 5, when a projectile fired by police exploded near him, breaking the glass of his helmet and leaving his left eye severely injured.

Yalcin underwent a six-hour operation at Cochin Hospital and faces the risk of permanent loss of eyesight.

On Jan. 11, Dursun Aydemir, another Anadolu Agency photojournalist, was injured in the leg when a gas canister used by the police hit him near the Lyon Train Station.

The pension reform strike started in protest of the government's planned overhaul of the nationwide pension system. President Emmanuel Macron is steadfast in his position that the 42 different plans currently in place need to be consolidated into one.

Pension payouts in the new plan would be calculated from salaries from across a worker's career instead of only last five years. The result, unions say, would be significantly reduced payouts for workers.

Macron's proposed plan would also phase out the early retirement advantages of certain sectors, primarily the civil service, by adjusting various "hardship" criteria.

*Writing and contribution by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak in Ankara

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By Handan Kazanci

ANKARA (AA) - Anadolu Agency is here with a rundown of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and other news in Turkey and around the world.

- Coronavirus in Turkey

Turkey on Thursday confirmed 926 additional recoveries as the country began easing measures against the novel coronavirus, according to the country’s health minister.

The total number of recoveries from the disease hit 131,778 as 926 more patients were discharged from hospitals over the past day, Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter, citing Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,630 as Turkey reported 21 new fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Turkey conducted over 54,000 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to more than 2.2 million, said Koca.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to resume international flights to 40 countries gradually as of June 10, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said Thursday.

International flights from Turkey will carry passengers first to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar and Greece, Karaismailoglu said in a statement.

Turkey suspended all international flights on March 28 amid COVID-19-related travel restrictions worldwide.

- Global coronavirus developments

A low death toll was once again recorded Thursday as France recovers from the coronavirus pandemic which plagued the country over the last three months, according to the latest statistics reported by the Health Ministry.

The country registered a total of 46 deaths in hospitals Thursday, a drop of 39 cases over those reported Wednesday.

Italy on Thursday reported 88 more fatalities from the pandemic, bringing the death toll to 33,689 as authorities unveiled new guidelines to prevent crowded summer spots like beach resorts from becoming new virus hotbeds.

The slowing trend in the number of deaths registered in May continued in early June, confirming that the peak of the crisis has been passed.

Face masks on English public transport will be mandatory from June 15, the British government announced Thursday, as a further 176 people died from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

British authorities announced that the UK-wide death toll from COVID-19 is now 39,904.

As Spain prepares for its state of emergency over COVID-19 to last until June 21, the Health Ministry reported Thursday that 195 more people were infected with the coronavirus and five more had died.

The number of infections diagnosed Wednesday was down slightly from the 219 people who tested positive Tuesday but up from Monday and Sunday. In total, 240,660 infections have been confirmed in the country.

Health officials in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza announced Thursday the arrival of medical supplies sent by Turkey to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra confirmed that two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines had been delivered for detecting the virus.

- George Floyd Memorial service

Hundreds of mourners on Thursday attended the first of several memorials for George Floyd – an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody on May 25.

The service at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota was attended by Floyd's family and Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the family, as well as celebrity guests.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday urged demonstrators joining protests over the death of George Floyd to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Cuomo said around 30,000 people have taken part in the statewide protests demanding justice for the killing of the unarmed black man in police custody.

Of them, 20,000 were involved in rallies in New York City.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged citizens not to overlook the racism problem in Germany while intensely discussing racism and police brutality in the US after the death of George Floyd.

"This murder of George Floyd is very, very terrible. Racism is something terrible,” Merkel said Thursday evening in an exclusive interview with public broadcaster ZDF.

“Racism has always been present, but sadly we also have this [problem]. We should first sweep in front of our own door,” she stressed.

- Other developments

Turkey and Libya plan to advance cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, including exploration and drilling activities, to further benefit from natural resources, Turkey’s president said in a meeting with Libya’s prime minister Thursday.

The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj took place at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Libya have reached a consensus on expanding their cooperation areas on the territory of Libya.