Freedom of speech Turkish election rally banned ahead of controversial visit


Kurds demonstrating after clashes with Turkish nationalists in Bern in 2015

Kurds demonstrating after clashes with Turkish nationalists in Bern in 2015

(Keystone)

Local authorities in Switzerland have banned an election rally outside Zurich by a Turkish politician from Istanbul.

The decision by the Aargau cantonal police on Friday comes ahead a planned visit to Zurich by Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu, on Sunday.

The Swiss government said Cavuşoğlu's visit posed "no heightened threat to domestic security", rejecting a demand by the Zurich cantonal government.

The foreign ministry added there were no grounds to limit freedom of speech.

According to a note sent by the Turkish embassy to the foreign ministry, Cavuşoğlu is scheduled to meet the Turkish consul generals of Switzerland and Austria in Zurich as well as members of the Turkish community.

Local ban

Meanwhile,  a planned election rally near Zurich on Friday by a senior Turkish politician from Istanbul has been forbidden.

The Aargau cantonal police announced it decided to grant no permission for a public event with Hurşit Yildirim for security reasons.

The politician of the ruling conservative AKP party with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was initially scheduled to speak in the city of Zurich, but the event was banned by the authorities.

Reservations

On Wednesday, the Zurich cantonal government expressed its reservations about Cavuşoğlu’s visit. The head of cantonal security told the Swiss News Agency that “even with a large police force, we cannot guarantee that the event will occur in a calm and smooth manner”.

He added that cantonal authorities refused to be held responsible for the visit, and mass demonstrations could be expected.

Earlier on Thursday the Zurich hotel booked by Cavuşoğlu cancelled his meeting room. The hotel manager said the organisers “couldn’t guarantee the safety of hotel guests, attendees and hotel staff”.

Tensions

Tensions between pro and anti-Erdoğan supporters in Switzerland have increased since the failed coup of July 2016.

There have also been clashes with Kurds and last year Zurich police had to use tear gas to break up an unauthorised demonstration. On Wednesday, an annual cabinet report flagged up the risk of clashes between Kurds and Turkish Islamists and nationalists residing in Switzerland as a major ethno-nationalist threat in the country.

On April 16, Turks will vote on a referendum on constitutional amendments that include strengthening the powers of President Erdoğan.

There has been resistance in Germany and Austria at attempts by Turkish politicians to campaign and influence Turkish passport holders who also have the right to vote. Germany and Austria have around 1.5 million and 300,000 residents of Turkish origin respectively.

An estimated 120,000 people with Turkish roots, including around 68,000 Turkish citizens, live in Switzerland. 

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swissinfo.ch with agencies/ts, a.c, ug



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