Turkish PM's aide seen kicking protester near Soma mine disaster

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
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In this photo taken Wednesday, May 14, 2014 a person identified by Turkish media as Yusuf Yerkel, advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, kicks a protester already held by special forces police members during Erdogan's visiting Soma, Turkey. Erdogan was visiting the western Turkish mining town of Soma after Turkey's worst mining accident . AP Photo/Depo Photos) TURKEY OUT

An aide to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sparked outrage in Turkey after he was seen assaulting a protester while visiting the site of the Soma coal mine disaster.

Yusuf Yerkel, an adviser to Erdogan, can be seen on video and in several wire service photographs kicking a man while he was being held down by two paramilitary police officers.

According to the Telegraph, the unidentified man was thought to be a grieving relative of one of the mine victims. Yerkel told the BBC that he would make a statement about the incident on Thursday.

The death toll from Tuesday's mine explosion stands at 282, making it the worst industrial accident in Turkish history.  Government officials told the Associated Press that 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of the explosion; 383 were rescued, many with injuries. More than 100 people are still missing.

In his initial remarks Wednesday, Erdogan downplayed the disaster, calling mining accidents "ordinary things" that happen in other countries. Not surprisingly, the comments drew an angry reaction from the crowd, and Erdogan was whisked away from the scene, taking refuge inside a supermarket.

It wasn't the first time the prime minister has drawn outrage with comments about the mining industry, the Telegraph noted. In 2010, when 30 people died in a mining accident, Erdogan said, 'Unfortunately, this profession has this in its destiny.”

According to Turkey's Mine Workers Union, there were more 25,000 accidents in the country's mines between 2000 and 2009, resulting in 63 deaths.

Thousands of miners participated in a series of demonstrations across Turkey on Thursday protesting the Soma disaster.

"Soma's coal will burn the government," some protesters chanted, according to the Guardian. Others were heard shouting, “Tayyip, the murderer.”

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