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Turkish Opposition Party Files Appeal Over April Referendum

FILE - Supporters wave flags as Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a rally of supporters a day after the referendum, at his palace, in Ankara, April 17, 2017.

Turkey's main opposition has launched a challenge with the European Court of Human Rights over the country's April referendum giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping political powers.

The secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), filed the appeal Tuesday as its head, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, led a group on a 425-kilometer cross-country protest march from Ankara to Istanbul.

The referendum, which Erdogan won with 51.4 percent of the vote, allows Turkey to switch its governing system from a parliamentary one to a presidential system, abolishing the office of the prime minister while boosting the president's powers.

The main opposition party contested the outcome and cited irregularities, including the decision by Turkey's election board, the YSK, to accept unstamped ballots. The petition filed in the Strasbourg, France-based court follows multiple appeals to Turkey's high court.

"The YSK decision made the referendum illegitimate. We are applying to the European Court of Human Rights," Kilicdaroglu told reporters in the city of Izmit, around 100 kilometers east of central Istanbul.

Kilicdaroglu and his supporters set out on the "March for Justice" on June 15, following the sentencing of fellow party member Enis Berberoglu to 25 years in prison on charges of spying. Berberoglu was the first CHP lawmaker to be imprisoned in a government crackdown that followed a failed coup in July 2016.

The march is expected to end in the coming days at the Istanbul prison where he is being held. A VOA reporter on the scene says thousands of people are participating in the march, which is now about 60 kilometers from the city.