Turkey's Erdoğan accuses Germany of Nazi practices in a row over demonstrations

Tareq Haddad

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused Germany of Nazi practices in a row over rallies supporting him across the EU.

Germany and the Netherlands have cancelled several pro-Erdoğan demonstrations which have sprung up to boost support for the 16 April referendum on constitutional reforms.

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If approved, the measures would give Erdoğan greater powers following last year's coup attempt, but are seen as a dictatorial power grab to stifle dissent.

German politicians have said the rallies in favour of the reforms risk destabilising the country. However, in a speech in Istanbul on Sunday (5 March), Erdoğan likened the cancellations to actions of the fascist Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s.

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"Your practices do not differ from previous Nazi practices," he said, according to Welt am Sonntag.

He said he thought such practices were no longer acceptable in Germany in 2017, but bluntly exclaimed: "We were wrong."

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Roughly 1.4 million Turks residing in Germany are eligible to vote in the April referendum and are considered to be a valuable voting bloc.

Pro-Erdoğan rallies have already been cancelled in the German town of Gaggenau, after authorities claimed there was a lack of space for the number of people expected, and in Cologne, where city officials said they were misinformed about the purpose of the event.

Erdoğan's comments come as other Turkish officials aligned with the president have said they would continue organising the demonstrations, stating that opposing them is in contradiction of democratic freedoms.

The comments also coincided with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern's interview in Welt am Sonntag on Sunday, where he called for an EU-wide ban on the rallies.

"A joint approach by the EU to prevent such campaign appearances would be sensible," Kern said in the interview with the German weekly.

Kern also called on Europe to distance itself from Erdoğan and end discussions with Turkey about membership of the EU bloc.

"We should reorient relations with Turkey without the illusion of EU membership," he said.

"Turkey has moved further and further away from Europe in the past few years. Human rights and democratic values are being trampled. Press freedom is a foreign word," he added.

Kern's comments come as a German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for Die Welt newspaper, was jailed in Turkey on allegations of producing terrorist propaganda and undermining the government.

On 3 March, Erdoğan personally defended the decision to detain Yucel, claiming the correspondent was a spy for Berlin and also worked as a representative for the Turkish rebel group PKK.

Turkey protest Oberhausen, Germany

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