The tear gas lobbed at protesters gathering in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square and its adjacent Gezi Park, as part of the country's most severe anti-government protests in decades, came from Brazil, sparking its South American manufacturer to issue a statement about the use of the “nonlethal” weaponry.
The Rio de Janeiro-based Condor Non-Lethal Technologies SA confirmed that it sold the tear gas to Turkish security forces – adding that the gas is “specifically designed to temporarily incapacitate people without causing them permanent damage or death” – but deflected some of the furor by saying that other countries also export tear gas and other weapons to Turkey.
"Turkey is one of the countries to which exports the Condor, but the Turkish police buy such equipment from other vendors as well, including Americans and Koreans," the company said in a statement.
Brazil’s Foreign Ministry also confirmed that a number of Brazilian companies export the so-called non-lethal weaponry to Turkey. It added that Brazil had no comment on alleged human rights violations occurring in Turkey as it does not meddle in the internal affairs of other nations.
"In the same way that the Turkish authorities are not involved in the internal politics of Brazil, the Foreign Ministry is silent on the issues of Turkey," a spokesperson said in the statement, according to the Epoch Times.
The crisis has left Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looking vulnerable for the first time in his decade in power and has threatened to tarnish the international image of Turkey, a Muslim majority country with a strongly secular tradition, a burgeoning economy and close ties with the United States.
Throughout the protests, Erdogan has maintained a defiant tone, insisting he would not be bowed by what he described as a vocal minority. On Tuesday, as police clashed with protesters in Taksim, he insisted again that the unrest was part of a conspiracy against his government.
The demonstrators, he said, " are being used by some financial institutions, the interest rate lobby and media groups to (harm) Turkey's economy and (scare away) investments."
A peaceful demonstration against the park's redevelopment that began more than two weeks ago has grown into the biggest test of Erdogan's authority, sparked by outrage over a violent police crackdown on May 31 against a peaceful sit-in in the park.
The unrest has spread to 78 cities across the country, with protesters championing their objections to what they say is the prime minister's increasingly authoritarian style and his perceived attempts to impose a religious and conservative lifestyle on a country with secular laws — charges he rejects.
Four people have been killed, including a policeman, and about 5,000 have been treated for injuries or the effects of tear gas, according to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.