A bomb threat amid rallies quashed: Berlin-Ankara rift deepens

A bomb threat amid rallies quashed: Berlin-Ankara rift deepens
Three German towns in two days have cancelled Turkish referendum rallies, causing Ankara's ire. One of them evacuated its town hall on Friday following a bomb threat.
2 min read
04 March, 2017
On Friday Gagganeau's town hall was evacuated following a bomb threat [AFP]

A third German town on Friday cancelled a Turkish referendum rally threatening to exacerbate a growing rift between Ankara and Berlin.

The rally was scheduled to take place in Frechen, a town west of Cologne, on Sunday with Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybeki set to appear as a guest speaker. 

Police said that the event had been called off since the hall where it was set to take place was not permitted to host "political events", wrote AFP.

On Friday another town where a similar event was cancelled was forced to evacuate its town hall following a bomb threat. 

"We presume this at the moment, but we don't know for sure. We presume there is a direct link," said Gagganeu mayor Michael Pfeiffer, speaking to N-TV shortly afterwards.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag had planned to meet with Turkish voters in Gagganeau on Thursday to rally support for constitutional measures aimed at expanding Erdogan's powers ahead of a referendum set to take place on 16 April.

He called the ruling "unacceptable", cancelling a scheduled trip to the country where he was also set to meet with his German counterpart Heiko Mass.

Soon after the Gagganeau cancellation, Cologne Porz followed suit, shutting down an event that was also set to be attended by Zeybeki; a move that saw the Turkish government summon Germany's ambassador to Ankara in response.

Around 1.4 million of the three million people of Turkish descent in Germany are eligible to vote in Turkey's 16 April referendum.

Ankara officials have accused Berlin of working against Erdogan's campaign for expanded powers, and, of double standards claiming German authorities have allowed the Kurdistan Workers Party - which is outlawed in Turkey - to stage rallies.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin have been strained since last year’s failed July 15 military coup in Turkey. 

Authorities in Berlin are demanding the release of Deniz Yucel, a German journalist with Die Welt detained in Istanbul over reports written in the aftermath of the attempted coup, in a wave of far ranging crackdowns that have been criticised by rights groups, and by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Meanwhile Ankara has demanded that Berlin extradite alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen - who Turkish officials say was the mastermind of the July 15 coup attempt. This request that has been been turned down by German officials.