BERLIN: The northern German city of Hanover today barred a political meeting by supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) at which a senior party official was to speak.
The move was likely to further hike tensions between Ankara and Berlin sparked by a ban on political rallies to ramp up support for a "Yes" vote in Turkey's April referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers. The issue has also sparked a major diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the Netherlands as well as a handful of other European states.
"We want to make it very clear that we don't want such electoral meetings in our city," said Stefan Schostok, mayor of this city of 500,000 that is the capital of the German state of Lower Saxony. "As mayor, I refuse to let an internal Turkish conflict be brought to our city," he said. According to Hanover city hall, the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) had asked for permission for a gathering which it characterised as a local gathering to discuss internal Turkish issues.
But after the city council discovered that Mehmet Mehdi Eker, one of the AKP's vice presidents, was due to speak, they banned the meeting. Eker has already spoken at several rallies of AKP supporters in Germany ahead of the April 16 referendum. The diplomatic crisis erupted after several German towns refused to allow political rallies at which Turkish ministers and officials were due to campaign, sparking a furious reaction from Ankara. Germany is home to the largest Turkish diaspora, with 1.4 million people who are eligible to vote in the referendum.