I called HDP politicians, not voters, terrorists: Erdoğan

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A girl flashes the victory sign as holding a flag bearing the logo of Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) as Turkish Kurds gather during Newroz celebrations for the new year in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, on March 21, 2018. Newroz (also known as Nawroz or Nowruz) is an ancient Persian festival, which is also celebrated by Kurdish people, marking the first day of spring, which falls on March 21. / AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denied claims that he called voters of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) terrorists and emphasized that his words were directed at HDP politicians, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Thursday.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Mardin in the run-up to Turkey’s local elections on March 31, Erdoğan touched on the media controversy caused by his remarks the day before.

Erdoğan had claimed that an opposition alliance formed against his ruling party included the HDP, which he and many members of his government have repeatedly referred to as the political branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

His words led to claims in the media that he had accused opposition voters of supporting terrorism.

At the rally, Erdoğan showed the audience video footage of speeches by HDP politicians including those of former Co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, who have been imprisoned on terrorism-related charges since late 2016.

“See, these are the terrorists,” Erdoğan said to the crowd. “Am I fool enough to call my citizens terrorists?”

In late February, however, Erdoğan’s official Twitter account had published an infographic that declared the opposition alliance to be guided by terrorist groups.

In his speech in the southeastern province of Mardin, Erdoğan also mentioned the work of government-appointed trustees who replaced former elected HDP mayors that he called “traitors.”

“You can see how Mardin has changed after it was transferred to a trustee,” Erdoğan said.

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