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Thousands of Kurds demonstrate in Cologne, Germany

Associated Press Associated Press 3/09/2016
Thousands of Kurds, including many carrying flags with the image of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, demonstrate in Cologne, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Organizers say Saturday’s demonstration is aimed in part at protesting against Turkey’s military intervention in northern Syria and what they call the “dictatorial” behavior of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In background the Cologne cathedral. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner © The Associated Press Thousands of Kurds, including many carrying flags with the image of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, demonstrate in Cologne, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Organizers say Saturday’s demonstration is aimed in part at protesting against Turkey’s military intervention in northern Syria and what they call the “dictatorial” behavior of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In background the Cologne cathedral. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner

COLOGNE, Germany — Thousands of Kurds, including many carrying flags with the image of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, demonstrated in the German city of Cologne Saturday against the Turkish government's policies.

Organizers said the demonstration was aimed in part at protesting against Turkey's military intervention in northern Syria and what they call the "dictatorial" behavior of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They argued that Ocalan, who has been in prison in Turkey since 1999, should be recognized as a "legitimate negotiating partner."

Cologne police put more than 1,000 officers in place. City police chief Juergen Mathies told news agency dpa that pictures of Ocalan were allowed but demonstrators would not be allowed to show symbols of the banned PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party.

Turnout at Saturday's event was estimated at close to 30,000, and there were no reports of significant trouble. A month ago, up to 40,000 people rallied at the same site to denounce the attempted military coup in Turkey and show support for Erdogan.

The PKK, which wants greater autonomy for Kurds living in Turkey, is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

A cease-fire between Turkey and the PKK collapsed last year. Last month, Turkey launched a cross-border operation whose aims include stalling Syrian Kurdish militants from seizing more ground in northern Syria.

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