German far-left and right gather for anti-Erdogan rallies

German far-left and right gather for anti-Erdogan rallies
Kurdish activists, far-right extremists and leftists have gathered in a German city to counter a rally supporting Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
3 min read
31 July, 2016
The pro-Erdogan rally comes amid mounting pressure for the Turkish president [AFP]
Tensions are building as rival protesters gathered in the German city of Cologne as supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rally.

Tens of thousands people were expected to take part in a demonstration showing support for the Turkish president who has come under fire after entrenching his hold in the country through a series of new laws and arrests.

Erdogan has faced criticism for his response to an attempted 15 July, as he sought to purge suspects from government and private sector posts.

The drama has spilled over into Germany, home to 3 million Germans with Turkish roots - the biggest Turkish diaspora in the world.

Up to 30,000 people were expected to attend a rally staged by groups including the pro-Erdogan Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD), police said.

The rally was to begin with a speech in both Turkish and German that praises the actions of those who stopped the attempted military coup.

The group also attacked the media for what is described as "one-sided and biased reports" according to a copy of the speech seen by AFP.

However, groups from the far-left and far-right - along with Kurdish activists - have gathered in the city to hold counter-demonstrations.

One was billed "Stop Erdogan" and another was called by far-right activists, raising fears the demonstrators could clash. 

It has led to hundreds of police officers being deployed to Cologne's streets to keep the peace.

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Cologne's police chief Juergen Mathies warned: "One thing I want to make clear is that we will intervene against any kind of violence quickly, decisively and forcefully."

Amid fears that the crowd could be further riled by live screenings of speeches from Turkey by politicians including Erdogan, Germany's constitutional court banned an application for such broadcasts.

Turkey's sports minister Akif Cagatay Kilic will attend, said Mathies, adding that he had been able to stop the foreign minister from participating.

Germany has been critical of the crackdown following the putsch leading to widening tensions between Erdogan and Chancel Angela Merkel.

Erdogan enjoys a large support base among the diaspora in Germany, while around 1.5 million people with Turkish nationality can vote in Turkish elections.

His AKP party garnered 60 percent in the country in last November's election, a bigger share of the vote than in Turkey.

Germany's integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz underlined Erdogan's influence, saying he was concerned that "the relationships of people living here with Turkey are being massively exploited politically".

In the days following the botched coup, pro-Erdogan activists have stormed locations in Germany popular with Gulen's followers.

Critics of the Turkish president have also complained of abuse and threats against them on social media.

"It is not right to bring Turkey's domestic political tensions here," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Saturday warned in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.