Turkish minister cancels Germany trip over rally ban
ANKARA - Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Thursday he had cancelled a scheduled trip to Germany after authorities there blocked a rally to promote a "yes" vote for constitutional changes that would expand the president's powers.
Bozdag was scheduled late Thursday to address the Turkish community in the western German town of Gaggenau and meet his German counterpart.
"That meeting with (the German justice minister) will not take place. I will return to Turkey," Bozdag said while on an official visit to Strasbourg, in remarks carried by private television station NTV.
The move comes after Gaggenau authorities withdrew an earlier agreement with the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) to hold a rally, with Bozdag as the guest speaker, saying that the hall did not have the capacity to host so many people.
"Because the event is now known across the region, the city expects a large number of visitors. However, the Bad Rotenfels hall (in Gaggenau), parking lots and access road are insufficient to meet that demand," the town's authorities said in a statement.
"Due to these reasons, the hall rental agreement with the UETD has been revoked," it added.
Bozdag condemned the German authorities' decision as "unacceptable".
"It is unacceptable that German authorities, who constantly lecture us about human rights, democracy, rule of law, free speech ... do not tolerate a meeting organised by the Turkish community," he said.
Separately, Cologne city authorities said they would no longer allow the UETD to use a hall on Sunday, when Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci was expected to make a rally speech.
Relations between the two NATO allies Turkey and Germany have soured following a series of disputes since the failed bid to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last July.