Erdogan's 'anti-terrorism' rally in France draws thousands

AFP , Sunday 4 Oct 2015

Erdogan Supporters
Supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party listening to the speech of Turkey's President Recep Tyyip Erdogan during rally to denounce violence by Kurdish rebels, in Strasbourg, eastern France, Sunday Oct. 4, 2015. (Photo: AP)

Around 12,000 people flocked to hear the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan address an anti-terrorism rally in the French city of Strasbourg Sunday, one of a number his supporters have organised in the run-up to a snap election in Turkey next month.

A sea of Turkish flags greeted the head of state, who his opponents claim is flouting tradition in campaigning actively for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which under his leadership dominated the country for more than a decade.

Erdogan told the crowds gathered from the Turkish diaspora in France, Germany, Belgium and even Switzerland, to resist "the people who threaten our country with arms and with bombs" and would lead it "into the dark tunnels of terrorism".

More than 150 Turkish soldiers and police have been killed since a two-year-old ceasefire with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fell apart in late July.

Some 1,500 people angry at the Turkish leader's record on human rights attended a counter demonstration organised by the French Federation of Alevis, a minority group who historically have faced persecution in Turkey.

"The Turkish president should be above party politics, but he is holding an electoral meeting here," said federation leader Erdal Kilickaya.

Erdogan's enemies accuse him of trying to turn an electoral advantage from the return to violence.

Hundreds of activists from the mainly Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) -- which deprived the AKP of its majority in a June election -- have also been arrested in the renewed unrest, with the party's offices regularly attacked.

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