German justice minister calls Erdoğan’s Nazi remarks ‘absurd’

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has described Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks ‘absurd’ who accused Germany of employing practices similar to those of the Nazi era by refusing to allow Turkish ministers to deliver speeches in the country.

“It’s absurd, malicious and far-fetched and [we] vehemently reject it,” Maas said on the television talk show “Anne Will” on Sunday.

German authorities last week did not allow Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi to deliver speeches in some German towns during which the ministers would ask for support from Turkish expatriates for a constitutional reform package, which will introduce an executive presidency and further strengthen Erdoğan.

Speaking at a meeting at İstanbul Abdi İpekçi Sports Hall on Sunday, Erdoğan said: “Oh Germany, you have nothing to do with democracy. Your practices are no different than the Nazi practices of the past. You give us a lesson in democracy but you don’t allow Turkish ministers to speak there. We will mention this in international settings and make you ashamed in front of the world. We don’t want to see that Nazi Germany. We thought it was high time Germany abandoned such practices, but we were mistaken.”

The German minister also questioned whether Berlin should react at all to Erdoğan’s inflammatory comments. “He wants to provoke [us]. And we have to take care that we don’t let ourselves be provoked,” he said.

Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), also slammed Erdoğan’s remarks. “It’s an unbelievable and unacceptable act for the president of a NATO member to say such a thing about another member,” he said on the ARD television show “Bericht aus Berlin” (Report from Berlin).


Also, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Sunday rebuffed Ankara’s reaction to the cancellation of referendum campaign programs of Turkish ministers in Germany, saying rules of law and decency need to be respected in addition to freedom of expression.

“We value freedom of expression, but rules of law, decency need to be respected,” said Gabriel in a tweet posted on the German Foreign Office’s official Twitter account, quoting the minister in an interview with the Bild daily. “Criticism remains vital, but difficult issues must not be used to play off each other,” added the foreign minister.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşuğlu and Gabriel decided during a phone call on Friday to meet in Germany on March 8 over the crisis.


Erdoğan has also said on Sunday that he will go to Germany for a referendum rally if he wants to and warned the German government that he would cause the world to rise up if he is not allowed to speak there. Attacking the German government over the recent cancellation of referendum campaign programs of Turkish ministers in Germany, Erdoğan accused Germany of employing practices similar to those of the Nazi era.

“I thought that Nazism has ended in Germany. But it seems your practices are no different from the Nazi practices of the past,” he said during a speech in İstanbul on Sunday.

Underlining that the recent cancellation of programs planned to be attended by two ministers in German towns were an attempt to prevent his arrival in Germany, Erdoğan said: “I will come to Germany if I want to. If you don’t let me in or if you don’t let me speak, I will make the whole world rise up.”

In response to Erdoğan’s remarks, Julia Klöckner, the deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) said Erdoğan was “reacting like a defiant child who cannot have his way.”

“The Nazi comparison is a new high point of intemperance. It is simply outrageous! True statesmen do not speak like that,” Klöckner told the German newspaper Bild.

On Thursday, local authorities in southwestern German town of Gaggenau and Cologne canceled the programs of Turkish ministers Bozdağ and Zeybekçi, which caused ties between the two countries to strain. Zeybekçi, however, arrived in the western city of Leverkusen for an event at the Forum cultural center to speak to expatriates in Germany and promote support for the constitutional referendum.

On Monday, a rental agreement for a hall in Germany in which former Energy Minister Taner Yıldız was set to deliver a speech on March 6 has been canceled amid increasing tension between Berlin and Ankara over the cancelation of Turkish ministers’ speeches in the country. The rental agreement at the Conference & Event Center belonging to the Kelsterbach town municipality near Frankfurt has been canceled, reports said. Yıldız was scheduled to deliver a speech in the hall at 7:30 p.m.


Meanwhile, Erdoğan has also continued on Sunday to criticize Germany and Deniz Yücel, the arrested reporter of German daily Die Welt, saying Yücel is not a journalist but a terrorist. “Chancellor [Merkel] told me when she came here… She said, ‘You have a detained journalist [Deniz Yücel]. We would be happy if you release him.’ I told her: ‘He is not a journalist, he is a terrorist. He is a terrorist. This man is a terrorist, not a journalist.’ And now, the German administration has put my ministers on the same level as this terrorist. This is the problem,” said Erdoğan during a program in İstanbul.

Erdoğan also repeated his claims that Yücel, who was arrested on Monday, had been hiding in the German Consulate General in İstanbul for a month. Erdoğan on Friday called Yücel a “German agent” and a “representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK]”.

A German official told Reuters on Saturday that the allegations of Erdoğan were absurd.

Yücel, who was detained in Turkey on Feb. 14 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court on Monday.

The prosecutor had accused Yücel of “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “inciting people to hatred and enmity.”

Erdoğan also criticized Berlin for harboring Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily, who has been in exile in Germany.

“This guy has been found guilty, but you reward him with a medal. You [Germany] should be tried for aiding and abetting terrorism.”

Turkey issued an arrest warrant for Dündar, who has been living in Germany since June 2016, for his story published in 2015 about weapons-laden Turkish trucks bound for Syria. Following his story, President Erdoğan personally targeted him, calling him a traitor.

The Özgürüz (We Are Free) website, a German-based online news website launched on Jan. 24 by Can Dündar, has been blocked in Turkey.

Over 3 million people of Turkish descent live in Germany. Nearly 1.4 million of them are eligible to vote in the referendum on April 16, which will enormously expand Erdoğan’s powers and switch Turkey into an executive presidency.

Turkey’s referendum campaign in Europe has been met with resistance and further cancellations in other countries. While the Dutch government criticized a planned rally with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşuğlu in Rotterdam this week and called it “undesirable,” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern on Sunday called for an EU-wide ban on Turkish referendum campaigning. (SCF with March 6, 2017

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