ANKARA: A correspondent for Germany's Der Spiegel magazine has been forced to temporarily leave Turkey after he received thousands of death threats over his article on the country's worst mining disaster.
"I was not withdrawn" by the magazine, Hasnain Kazim, the Istanbul-based correspondent, told AFP in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
"I am just spending a few days somewhere else to be on the safe side. In a few days I will be back in Istanbul and continue to do my work," he said.
In his article, Kazim quoted a miner from the western town of Soma saying, "Go to hell, Erdogan," in a show of anger at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's response to the mining disaster that claimed 301 lives.
Kazim said he has received over 10,000 threats via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, adding that a few hundreds of them were death threats.
"Get out of my country you filthy pig," one Twitter user wrote.
Kazim said he did not express his or Der Spiegel's views in the article but just quoted a miner.
"I reported from Soma and quoted one surviving worker with the words: 'I would not have said this earlier, but now I want to tell Erdogan: Go to hell!'", he said.
"AKP trolls did not see or did not want to see that this was a quote but considered me and Der Spiegel to have said that," he added, referring to Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP).
"Unfortunately, several papers and TV channels spread that, too - some close to the government to show Germany's 'evil' character, some critical of the government to misuse me as their spokesperson."
The pro-government Yeni Safak claimed that both the reporter and Der Spiegel were Germany's tool to threaten Turkey's national security.
The mine tragedy -- one of the worsts in modern history -- has caused a wave of fury against the AKP government ahead of August presidential elections in which the embattled Erdogan had been tipped to win.
Photographs of Erdogan aide Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protester who was held down have sparked outrage, as well as images of police firing tear gas and water cannon at thousands of protesters in several cities and in Soma -- reviving memories of the government's heavy-handed crackdown against nationwide protests in 2013.
The disaster has added to the political pressure on Erdogan, whose Islamic-rooted party emerged triumphant from March 30 local elections despite a corruption scandal implicating key allies and last year's mass protests.
Amid mounting anger over what some said was his "heartless" response to the crisis, Erdogan also faced condemnation and calls to cancel his visit on Saturday from across the political spectrum in Germany.
Erdogan is due to address supporters in Germany -- where three million Turks or people of Turkish origin live -- with a visit to the western city of Cologne.
A senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, Wolfgang Bosbach, who is chairman of the Bundestag's interior affairs committee, said the Cologne event should be called off.
For the first time, some 2.6 million Turks living abroad -- including 1.5 million in Germany alone -- will be able to cast their votes in the August presidential vote in which Erdogan is expected to stand.