Germany's decision to cancel Turkish ministers' rallies causes outrage

Top Turkish government officials slam decision of Gaggenau and Cologne city authorities to revoke permission for scheduled rallies by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci to address the Turkish community in Germany.

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag speaking to reporters at a press briefing in this file photo.

Updated Mar 3, 2017

Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag cancelled a scheduled visit to Germany on Thursday after authorities in the southern German town of Gaggenau revoked permission for a meeting where the minister was scheduled to address Turkish community members.

Bozdag was scheduled to address the crowd at an event organised by the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), about Turkey's upcoming April 16 referendum for the proposed constitutional amendments in the country. ​

Empty chairs are seen in front of the stage decorated with the Turkish flag on March 2, 2017 at the festival hall in Gaggenau, southern Germany, where Turkey's Justice Minister was expected as guest speaker.

After the controversial decision by German authorities, Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador to Ankara to express its disapproval.

Speaking in the French city of Strasbourg, Bozdag criticised German authorities for cancelling the hall meeting on such short notice and said the move smacked of hypocrisy.

"It is unacceptable that the German authorities are not tolerating a meeting of the Turkish community, while they are always lecturing everyone on human rights, democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression, and criticising them about their deficits in these areas." 

The city of Gaggenau, in a statement, said that the event was cancelled due to security-related concerns and the limited capacity of the hall where the event would have been held. 

Separately, Cologne city authorities said they would no longer allow the UETD to use a hall on Sunday, when Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci was expected to make a rally speech.

"The event can and will not happen there," a spokeswoman for Cologne city authorities said, citing difficulties in guaranteeing security.

It was unclear if Zeybekci would be able to find an alternative site or why was the permission granted in the first place.

Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik also slammed Germany, saying that the decision of the German authorities was "clearly preventing [the exercise of] a democratic right," and should have "no place" in European democracies.

"Such decisions would be a victory for the racists, and a defeat for those who are committed to the values of the free world," he added.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus speaks to media after cabinet meeting in Ankara. (Anadolu Agency/Archive)

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulus also criticised German authorities.

"The rallies held in Germany are not rallies to influence Germany's domestic politics. In a democratic country, such a ban could never be accepted. We have to prepare the platform to provide information to Turkish citizens who will be voting. These are the requirements of democracy, and if you are not going to hold a rally, how can you ask for people's vote? This is not the proper attitude befitting of a Democracy," he said.

Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin delivers a speech during a press conference at Presidental Complex in Ankara, Turkey on December 8, 2016. ​(Anadolu Agnecy/Archive)

Turkey's Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, regarding the controversial decision, took to Twitter to criticise Germany by saying, "taking this scandal decision in a country that embraces terrorist organisations like PKK and FETO is worrying for the future of Europe."

"The real face of those who try to give a lesson to Turkey on democracy and freedom of expression is clearly emerging with such decisions," he added.

PKK Rallies

Ankara has long criticised Germany for being a haven for the PKK terror groups recruitment, propaganda and funding activities.

The far-left terrorist group had more than 14,000 members and adherents in Germany, according to the 2015 annual report of German domestic intelligence agency, BfV.

Although the PKK is banned in Germany, the terrorist group has been carrying out significant activities through various cultural associations. 

According to the BfV, the PKK raised more than $14.3 million in Germany last year alone.

The group, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, EU and US, is responsible for the deaths of more than 44,000 people in a decades-long campaign against Turkey, and has recently intensified its terrorist attacks.

TRTWorld and agencies