Published: 04 March 2017 Saturday, 11:34 AM
Bonn, 04 March (deutschenews24.de/dpa)- A campaign event in a southern German town at which Turkey`s justice minister was scheduled to speak was cancelled by local authorities on Thursday, prompting Turkey to summon the German ambassador in Ankara.
Officials in Gaggenau had called off the rally just hours before Bekir Bozdag had been expected to call on Turkish voters living in Germany to back constitutional reforms in an upcoming referendum.
The local authorities cited security reasons and stretched capacity for the cancellation.
Gaggenau Mayor Michael Pfeiffer insisted that it was not a political decision and said the town in the southern German state of Baden Wuerttemberg had not sought the advice of higher authorities in Germany when stopping the rally.
But Turkey reacted angrily to the move, with Bozdag asking: "What kind of democracy is this?"
While still in the French border city of Strasbourg, the minister said he would fly straight back to Turkey
Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that German Justice Minister Heiko Maas had requested a meeting with Bozdag on Thursday evening, but Bozdag said that he would not attend, following the cancellation of the rally.
Ankara later summoned the German ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann, according to Anadolu.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took to Twitter to chastise the German authorities. "With such decisions, we clearly see the true face of those who take any opportunity to lecture Turkey on democracy and freedom of speech," he wrote.
Of the about 3 million Turks living in Germany roughly half are eligible to vote in referendum, which is set for April 16.
A "yes" vote would extend the powers of Erdogan, who has already used a state of emergency following a failed coup in July to launch a widespread purge of government opponents and to clampdown on the media by arresting more than 140 journalists.
The Gaggenau rally was one of a series of campaign events planned by Turkey`s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Germany.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addressed Turkish voters at a campaign rally in the Rhineland town of Oberhausen last week.
Gokay Sofuoglu, head of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), an apolitical lobby group, criticized Thursday`s decision by officials in Gaggenau, saying in comments to the Rheinische Post newspaper that they should have consulted event organizers first.
"This decision only helps President Erdogan in the end," he added.
The cancellation comes against the backdrop of renewed strains in relations between Ankara and Berlin - most recently, over the arrest of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in Turkey.
Yucel has been accused by the Turkish authorities of spreading propaganda from the banned Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK) as well as the movement of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan believes was the mastermind of last July`s failed military coup.
Bozdag`s German counterpart, Justice Minister Maas, has been outspoken on the issue of press freedom, following the detention of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel by the Turkish authorities.