Turkey’s justice min. cancels Germany visit in protest

Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag cancelled a planned visit to Germany on Thursday, after local authorities revoked permission for a meeting where he was scheduled to address Turkish community members.

Bozdag slammed German authorities for cancelling the hall meeting at short notice, which was scheduled for Thursday in the southern German town of Gaggenau.

"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, rule of law and freedom of expression, and criticizing them about their deficits in these areas," he told reporters in Strasbourg, France.

Bozdag said, following today's incident, he decided to cancel a planned meeting with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, who had requested a meeting with him in Karlsruhe on Thursday.

I have called off our meeting with Germany's justice minister, after the cancellation of the gathering in Gaggenau. This meeting will not take place, we will return to Turkey," he said.

Bozdag accused German authorities for applying double standards, blocking a meeting of a minister from a democratic country, but allowing members of PKK, which is also listed as a terrorist organization in Germany, to carry on their propaganda activities without facing any restriction.

What kind of a democracy is this, with terrorists left free to do anything, he said.

But for legitimate governments, for those who just want to express their opinion, they are raising big obstacles, he added.

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.

He likened the move to an "ideological Berlin Wall which separates people, and undermines bridges between 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.

Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said, "taking this scandal decision in a country that embraces terrorist organizations like PKK and FETO is worrying for the future of Europe."

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

Mustafa Yeneroglu, the chairman of the Human Rights Inquiry Commission at the Turkish Parliament, stated that he did not expect such a thing to happen in Germany, where they named themselves "the castle of freedom of expression."

The municipality of Gaggenau revoked its permission for the meeting earlier Thursday citing concerns of overcrowding. The event was organized by the Union of European Turkish Democrats, or UETD.

The move came after Germany's opposition parties and several media organizations called on authorities not to allow Turkish politicians to address meetings, ahead of a referendum on transition to presidential system.

Bozdag was to address Turkish citizens on the proposed changes to introduce a presidential system in Turkey, which will be put to a referendum on April 16.

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

Source: Anadolu Agency