Bozdağ retaliates by canceling meeting with German minister over arrested journalist row

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has reacted against a German decision not to allow him to give a speech arranged for Thursday evening, saying he has cancelled a meeting with his German counterpart, also scheduled for Thursday.

Gaggenau, a small town in Germany, on Thursday cancelled a speech by Bozdağ set for that evening amid outrage over the arrest in Turkey of Turkish-German reporter Deniz Yücel on charges of terrorism.

“I was to go to Gaggenau and also have a meeting with the German justice minister. It was a rendezvous demanded by the German side. We were to meet at Karlsruhe at 18:00 and have a chance to talk about certain issues. Since the meeting in Gaggenau was cancelled, I have cancelled the rendezvous with the German minister. We will not have the meeting. We are returning to Turkey,” said Bozdağ in reaction to the decision.

“It is not acceptable that the German authorities, who make speeches about human rights, democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression, and who accuse all except themselves of being lacking on these issues, cannot tolerate a meeting of the Turkish community,” added Bozdağ.

Deutsche Welle reported that the town of Gaggenau withdrew its permission for Bozdağ’s speech to Turks aiming to campaign for an April 16 referendum that will bring an executive presidency to Turkey.

The town cited a lack of space for the rally as reactions in Germany against Yücel’s recent arrest mount.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador to Ankara on Thursday to protest the cancellation of Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ’s program in Germany, Cumhuriyet reported. According to the report, Ankara conveyed its uneasiness over the decision to German Ambassador Martin Erdmann.

The recent developments has increased the tension in relations between two countries. In early February, German police raided the homes of four Turkey’s official imams linked with the German-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) on the suspicion that they spied for Erdoğan’s government on followers of the Gülen movement, the inspiration of which — US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen — Turkey accuses of being behind a failed coup attempt last July. DİTİB coordinator Murat Kayman resigned as the spying imam issue has led to tensions between Turkey and Germany. The imams are accused of illegally profiling Turkish people in Germany, particularly sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said in a statement that the imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20 of last year by the directorate to profile Gülen movement sympathizers. Earlier, DİTİB officials admitted to profiling Gülen movement sympathizers based on instructions from Turkey’s top religious authority, the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Last month the GBA launched an investigation into Turkish intelligence operations on German soil after a lawmaker filed a criminal complaint. Austria is also investigating whether Turkey has been operating an informer network targeting Gülen followers on its soil, via its embassy in Vienna.

Turkey has accused Germany of harboring militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and far-leftists of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), which has carried out attacks in Turkey. German officials reject the accusation.

While the Turkish prime minister addressed the Turkish diaspora in the NRW town of Oberhausen on February, calling on them to support Erdoğan in an upcoming referendum in April to switch Turkey to an executive presidency under his leadership, Erdoğan is also expected to hold rallies in Germany in March.

Over 3 million people of Turkish descent live in Germany. Nearly 1.4 million of them are eligible to vote in Turkish elections and referenda. (SCF with March 2, 2017

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