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Jailed militant leader enters Istanbul election fray

An unexpected message from Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence for treason, urged Kurds to stay “neutral” and could tilt the outcome in a bitter campaign for control of Turkey’s biggest city.
Pro-Kurd protesters hold flags with portraits of jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan as they take part in a demonstration in support to him in Strasbourg, France, February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler - RC12D7661100

ISTANBUL — Jailed militant leader Abdullah Ocalan has called on the main pro-Kurdish political party to remain “neutral” in Istanbul’s mayoral election in what was widely seen as an entreaty to abandon its support for the opposition candidate and help President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party retain control of the city.

But the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) signaled it would continue to back Ekrem Imamoglu, who narrowly won the mayorship March 31 before electoral officials agreed with his opponent’s claims that technical irregularities required a do-over vote, scheduled for Sunday.

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