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Turkey's Erdogan dismisses criticism, praises police 'heroism' against protesters

Turkey's prime minister has brushed off criticism by human rights groups and some European countries, insisting police officers have displayed "legendary heroism" in quelling weeks of anti-government protests.

Addressing police academy graduates at a ceremony in Ankara Monday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was protesters — not police — that were violent, and praised the security forces for showing restraint.

The protests started off as a small environmental sit-in but quickly turned into a nationwide expression of discontent with Erdogan's 10-year rule.

Erdogan has blamed the demonstrations on a foreign conspiracy to harm Turkey.

At least four people — three demonstrators and one police officer — have been killed. Human rights groups say police used excessive force on protesters.

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