Germany won’t let Turkey’s strongman hold a rally in the country


MOSCOW — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s request to address Turkish citizens on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany next week will be rejected, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Thursday.

“We are telling Turkey that we are convinced that such an appearance in Germany is not possible,” he said during a visit to Russia, citing provisions in Germany’s constitution as justification.

“Our country is an open country, but we do not have the intention to allow that other countries’ domestic conflicts be imported into our population,” said Gabriel, who serves as deputy to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Earlier this year, Germany and the Netherlands blocked several events by Turkish officials who wanted to address Turkish voters ahead of a referendum on constitutional changes in Turkey, prompting Erdogan to lash out at European leaders, calling them “Nazis.”

Next month, Turkey marks one year since a failed coup attempt, which exacerbated a crackdown against critics of the government.

Ankara is meanwhile looking to update the customs union agreement with the European Union, despite worsening tensions with the bloc about democracy and human rights norms.

Erdogan has been pushing for a referendum to reintroduce the death penalty. The European Union has said such a move would end the country’s bid for EU membership. Germany has said it would not allow its residents to participate in such a vote.

Gabriel also called for a general ban on campaigning by non-EU leaders three months ahead of polls in their countries.

Germany’s constitutional court said in March that members of foreign governments are not automatically entitled the right to enter the country for purposes of making political appearances.

Meanwhile Thursday, Turkish authorities opened criminal cases against 3,658 people for allegedly “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, citing the Justice Ministry.

Over the course of the year, 46,193 cases were opened against people who are accused of the more general crime of “insulting Turkey, the Turkish nation or Turkish government institutions.”

Critics of Erdogan say the insult law — long on the books but previously little-used — is being employed as a means to intimidate and punish opponents.

Last year, a court convicted a former Miss Turkey of insulting Erdogan on social media.

The issue has spilled over to Germany, where Erdogan also filed a case against a satirist Jan Boehmermann who read a poem containing some obscene language on a television show, which raised freedom of speech issues in the European country.

Erdogan became president in 2014 after serving as prime minister for more than a decade.