A man named Kerem Can Karakaş reportedly died from a heart attack in Istanbul on Friday as Turkish police launched a brutal crackdown on protesters in the city's iconic Taksim Gezi Park. While some reports say his heart attack stemmed from tear gas complications, a friend says it's unrelated.
Karakaş was an Istanbul software developer and a well-known, devoted member of the Turkish Linux Users Association, a nonpolitical group of about 1,000 Turks who seek to create free, open-source software to share with other Linux users. He was among the protesters in the park Friday.
One of the earliest online reports of Karakaş' death appears to be a tweet by Princeton University fellow Zeynep Tufekci.
"The sad news is true. Kerem Can Karakaş died of a heart attack. My condolences to all the free software community," reads a rough translation of Alcin's post in Turkish.
The various tweets and reports of Karakaş' death were subsequently reported on by news organizations around the world, a number of which stated that he died of a heart attack resulting from complications related to tear gas inhalation.
"Free Developer Kerem Can Karakas exposed to attack in front of the AKM died," reads a rough translation from a report in Turkish by the Demokrat Haber news organization. AKM is an acronym referring to the Atatürk Cultural Center (Atatürk Kültür Merkezi) at Taksim Square, where the protest was violently broken up by police Friday morning. "Kerem Can Karakas died of a heart attack ... [from] the effect of the gas."
But in the hours since Karakaş' death, Alcin has repeatedly countered claims that his friend had died as a result of the police crackdown, tear gas, or other outside influences, maintaining that he died of a regular heart attack that happened to coincide with the police crackdown on the protest in Turkey's Taksim Square.
"Nothing to do with events in Taksim," reads a rough translation of one of his tweets on the events surrounding Karakaş' passing. "Kerem's death has nothing to do with the Taksim incidents," reads another. Karakaş' funeral and burial will take place Saturday at noon, according to Alcin.
It appears the early reports that Kerem Can Karakaş' fatal heart attack was brought on by complications from inhaling tear gas may be incorrect, though officials have not yet weighed in on his passing or the circumstances that led to it. Official details will likely emerge in the coming days as news of his passing makes its way around the world.
Meanwhile, Turkish media is reporting that one protester was killed Friday while trying to scale a wall to evade police. The wall collapsed, killing the man and reportedly injuring other protesters who were attempting to get over the wall.