COLOGNE DEMO Turks Rally for Erdogan in Cologne

A demonstration in Cologne drew tens of thousands from Germany's Turkish community. But German authorities banned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from broadcasting live to the demonstrators, sparking outrage in Ankara.
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a largely peaceful protest in the center of Cologne.

Tens of thousands of people turned out in Cologne on Sunday to demonstrate against the failed coup in Turkey. One person, however, was noticeably absent: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr. Erdogan had planned to deliver a broadcast speech to his supporters in Cologne. But the broadcast was banned amid concerns that Mr. Erdogan might try to rally the demonstrators against his opponents in Germany.

"It's not acceptable for domestic political tensions in Turkey to be carried over to Germany and to intimidate people with different political beliefs, from whichever side it may come," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung before Sunday's demonstration.

The Union of European-Turkish Democrats sued to overturn the ban and the case landed before Germany's Federal Constitutional Court. In the end, the country's highest court upheld the ban, sparking outrage in Ankara.

I am not here for a party or for Erdogan, I'm here for my people. Suna Arslan, Demonstration participant

The spokesman for Mr. Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, told the Turkish news agency Anadolu on Sunday that the ban was "unacceptable" and questioned the "true reason" that German authorities wouldn't let the Turkish president broadcast a speech to the demonstration.

Mr. Kalin accused German authorities of allowing the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group, to stage demonstrations while casting suspicion on those protesting the failed the coup.

On Monday, Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the German ambassador for a satisfactory explanation at an appointment planned for the evening, according to DPA, which cited reliable sources in Ankara. As Martin Erdmann, the ambassador, is on holiday, the envoy, a deputy will instead attend. Ahead of the meeting, a spokesman from Germany's ministry for foreign affairs said that there were no plans to withdraw the ambassador. "That would be counterproductive," said Martin Schäfer. "Breaking off dialog and communication certainly wouldn't be the right thing to do," he said.

Last week, the Turkish government called on Germany to extradite followers of the U.S.-based Turkish imam Fetullah Gülen, who Mr. Erdogan blames for the coup. Mr. Gülen denies the allegations.

Though the Turkish president was absent on Sunday, his supporters were out in force. Authorities had set aside space for an expected 30,000 demonstrators and some 2,700 police were deployed. According to police estimates, 30,000 to 40,000 people attended the rally.

Mehmet Yasar, who participated in the demonstration with his family, said he was "shocked" by the attempted coup. "I'm here today because I am a friend of democracy," Mr. Yasar told Handelsblatt. He said the people who staged the coup wanted to destabilize Turkey and turn the country into another Syria.

But not everyone who showed up was a supporter of Mr. Erdogan. "I am not here for a party or for Erdogan, I'm here for my people," Suna Arslan told Handelsblatt. "I have Kurdish and Alevi friends who are also here today."

Concerns that a counter-demonstration by the right-wing group Pro-NRW would lead to clashes turned out to be exaggerated. Only around a hundred people showed up for a counter-demonstration, a police spokesman said.

Tensions look set to increase after the Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu threatened to cancel the refugee deal between Turkey and the European Union if a date isn't set by which Turkish citizens would gain visa-free entry to the E.U. "I don't care if it's early or mid-October but we expect a concrete date," Mr. Cavusgolu told Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung. "If visa liberalization does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back refugees and the March 18 agreement," he said.

The agreement between Turkey and the European Union helps to slow the influx of people fleeing war in the Middle East. It foresees Turkey accepting Syrian refugees who reach Greece and the resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey in European Union countries. In exchange, the agreement promised visa-free travel for Turkish people and accession talks about the country's entry to the European Union. But since Mr. Erdogan's crackdown in Turkey following the failed coup, including talk of reintroducing the death penalty, there has been criticism of the deal.


Spencer Kimball is an editor for Handelsblatt Global Edition. Jakob Blume writes for Handelsblatt's website. Allison Williams contributed to this article. To contact the author: [email protected]