Lyon: Hundreds protested against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the French city of Lyon on Saturday as he visited Europe ahead of an expected bid for the presidency.
Organisers said 1,000 people took part in the protest organised by pro-democracy and minority groups near a local government office, where Erdogan met regional officials. Police said there were about 500 protesters.
"His government is authoritarian. It scorns democracy by violently repressing peaceful demonstrations and minorities," said Mehmet Demirbas, head of a local cultural centre for the Alevi community in Lyon.
The community, which follows a moderate form of Islam and accounts for 10-15 million of Turkey`s 76 million citizens, has frequently clashed with Erdogan`s government.
Erdogan is touring European countries with large Turkish populations ahead of a widely expected run for the presidency in August. As many as 10,000 people demonstrated in Vienna when he visited Austria earlier this week.
The Prime Minister has been accused of autocratic tendencies in Turkey, but faces little opposition for the presidency.
Erdogan later met members of Lyon`s Turkish community, calling on them to maintain their identities.
He urged them not to forget their "culture, traditions, identity and especially faith" while integrating in France.
Touching on Turkey`s long talks with the European Union on membership, Erdogan said it was only a matter of time before the country was admitted.
"The EU needs Turkey... the EU needs Turkey because of its young and dynamic population," he said. "Turkey is not a country that will be kept at the door forever."