ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s foreign minister claimed Friday that forces within the state in Germany are working to prevent Turkish leaders from campaigning there for a “yes” vote in a referendum to increase the president’s powers.
Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments a day after local authorities in southwestern Germany withdrew permission for the Turkish justice minister to use a venue for a political rally for Turks living in Germany, citing insufficient space. The minister, Bekir Bozdag, canceled a meeting with his German counterpart in protest, while Turkey summoned the German ambassador seeking an explanation.
Recalling previous incidents, including one last year when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also blocked from addressing Turkish citizens, Cavusoglu said: “this has become a systematic practice of the German deep state.”
“They don’t want Turkish leaders to campaign because they are working for ‘no’ votes,” Cavusoglu said. “They want to prevent (the creation) of a strong Turkey.”
Meanwhile, in the town where the justice minister had planned to speak, German authorities evacuated the town hall after receiving a bomb threat.
Police said Friday the building in Gaggenau was evacuated as a precaution as bomb-sniffer dogs and experts investigated, the DPA news agency reported.
The minister also accused Berlin of treating Turkey like a second-class country.
“Turkey is not a country that takes your orders. You are not Turkey’s boss,” he said.
The German government, however, has indicated it has no plans to prevent Turkish officials from speaking to the 1.4 million Turkish voters in Germany. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Wednesday that Germany wants to lead by example on issues of freedom of speech and assembly.
The dispute over the Turkish leaders’ campaign rallies comes amid already worsening ties between Berlin and Ankara over the detention in Turkey of Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for the German daily Die Welt. The dual Turkish and German citizen was arrested pending trial over accusations of terrorist propaganda and inciting hatred.