No hand in rally ban on Turkish ministers: German gov’t

Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government Friday distanced itself from a controversial ban on Turkish justice minister's meeting with expat community in Germany.

Speaking at the government's regular press conference in Berlin, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said the cancellation of a hall meeting with Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag Thursday in the southern German town of Gaggenau's was the local municipality's decision.

That was a decision on which the federal government had no influence at all, and it could not have any influence anyway, because this is an issue which falls in the competences of the states or local communities according to the legislation; here, we have zero influence, he said.

Government's deputy spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer also underlined the federal government's position in favor of freedom of expression and the right to assembly.

If we are complaining about the situation there [in Turkey], then we have to adhere to press freedom, freedom of expression and the right to assembly in our country. Of course, it must always be within the framework of respective rules and laws, Demmer said.

Authorities in Gaggenau had revoked its permission for Bozdag's planned meeting with Turkish migrants at a short notice, citing concerns of overcrowding.

The move came after German opposition parties and several media organizations called on authorities to not allow Turkish politicians to address meetings ahead of a referendum in Turkey on constitutional reforms, including the crucial change to a presidential system of governance.

Bozdag canceled his visit to Germany in protest and called off his planned meeting with his German counterpart, Heike Maas.

Turkey protested the cancellation of Bozdag's address to Turkish community by summoning Germany's ambassador to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on the same day.

Third cancellation in a week

Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci's planned address on Sunday to Turkish community in western city of Cologne was also cancelled on Thursday by local authorities over security concerns.

While organizers rented another hall in Frechen, a small town near Cologne, the owner of the hall unexpectedly terminated the contract on Friday.

German police announced the contract was terminated because it did not envisage hosting a political meeting" at the hall.

The organizers told Anadolu Agency correspondent they were looking for another appropriate place to host the event.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had sharply criticized German authorities Friday for trying to prevent meetings between Turkish politicians and the expat community.

This has become a systematic practice of the German deep state, he said.

Berlin seeks dialogue

Despite growing tensions between Berlin and Ankara, Foreign Ministry spokesman Schaefer said they are eager to enhance dialogue between the two countries to address existing problems and seek ways to further expand cooperation.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in recent months as Turkish leaders strongly criticized their German counterparts for turning a blind eye to terrorist organizations such as the PKK and FETO, which they say use Germany as a platform for their activities targeting Turkey.

Tensions between the two countries further escalated last week after German media and politicians sharply criticized Turkey for the pre-trial detention of Die Welt's Istanbul correspondent Deniz Yucel on charges of terror propaganda.

Several leading Turkish politicians from the government as well as opposition parties are planning several meetings in Germany with Turkish expats this month, ahead of a referendum on April 16.

Among Germany's 3 million-strong Turkish community, nearly 1.5 million of them are eligible to vote. They will cast their votes at Turkish consulates in Germany between March 27 and April 9.

Source: Anadolu Agency