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Protests as Turkey's Erdogan visits Germany

Clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in Karlsruhe, amidst an appearance by the Turkish president. Erdogan's visit came ahead of the Turkish general election in June.

Deutschland Türkei Recep Erdogan in Karlsruhe - Protest

"Erdogan - you aren't welcome - here or anywhere else!" read one protest placard

"You are Turkey's strength," Erdogan told more than 14,000 fans at a jam-packed arena outside Karlsruhe, explaining amidst a cheering crowd and waving Turkish flags that he wasn't just talking to "guest workers" who left Turkey for Germany years ago.

In a speech broadcast live on Turkish television, Erdogan said he was addressing the "new Turkey," the Turks living in Germany that he called the "voice of his own nation."

"The new Turkey begins with you," Erdogan announced to the crowd at the opening of the event, which began with the presentation of a song that had been composed for the Turkish head of state.

After his speech, the crowd chanted: "Erdogan! We love you! We are proud of you!"

Deutschland Türkei Recep Erdogan in Karlsruhe

Erdogan denied accusations that he was in Karlsruhe for a political rally

Amidst the jubilation, thousands gathered outside the arena to protest Erdogan's visit to Germany, which his opponents have said violates Turkish law.

They called his appearance a clear indication that Erdogan was representing his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

A spokesperson for the Karlsruhe police said clashes occurred after members of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) approached Erdogan supporters as they waited to enter the arena. The Erdogan supporters reportedly then started attacking the PKK members, leaving several injured.

According to the constitution, the Turkish president is not allowed to take part in election campaign events.

'Really insulting'

Officially, the event is being billed as a meeting with youth groups. However, it is widely seen as a campaign stop ahead of the parliamentary election in Turkey on June 7.

There are about 1.4 million Turks living in Germany who are eligible to vote in the June election, representing nearly half of all eligible voters residing abroad. Erdogan has been drawing the ire of the opposition for campaigning in favor of the governing AKP, though he is legally bound as president to remain non-partisan.

"I think it's a real cheek that he's campaigning here, as a president, for the AKP. It's not right that he was allowed to enter the country and give his speech here," said protester Umut Donmez, speaking with news agency Reuters.

Turkey's election commission has rejected a complaint by the pro-Kurdish HDP, which wanted the body to warn the presidency about involvement in campaigning. Polls are showing that the AKP, which Erdogan co-founded, has

declined in popularity

compared with the 2011 general election, though the party may still be able to govern without having to form a coalition.

glb/cmk (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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