Turkish police slammed for fining beer drinkers – AFP

Turkish police slammed for fining beer drinkers(AFP) – Mar 3, 2011

ANKARA — Turkish police faced ridicule in the press on Thursday after they fined two men for having a few sips of beer in a tourist spot, in an episode that has highlighted concerns of a creeping conservatism.

After being forced to take a breathalyser test, the pair were found to have been drinking but were way below the legal limit for driving with alcohol. They were ordered to pay 30 euro fines each, media reports said.

As police defended their handling of the incident in the stone auditorium of an ancient amphitheatre in the southern Antalya region, one of the men who was fined said he planned to sue.

“I’m still in shock,” said 32-year-old Zafer Ulker, an interior designer.

“If we were (tested) for drunkness while driving, we would not be fined as we were under the limit.”

Newspapers criticised the police’s reaction, emphasizing that the two were neither drunk-drivers nor disturbing the public.

“Drunkness fine for two sips of beer” was the headline of daily Milliyet, while the rival Haberturk said the police had been overly zealous.

The police chief of Antalya, which hosts millions of foreign tourists every year, defended his officers.

“Women, girls and tourists walk around in those public places. It disturbs people there when there is alcohol involved. We will not allow anyone to disturb others,” Ali Yilmaz was quoted as saying by Haberturk.

The incident came amid a new government regulation introducing stringent rules on alcohol sales that has raised alarm among secular urban Turks that the Islamist-rooted government is targeting their liberal lifestyle.

Since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has significantly raised taxes on alcohol, with price hikes amounting to almost 25 percent only in 2010.

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