Turkish authorities have demanded an investigation into the display of a banner depicting the assassination of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a demonstration in Bern.
On Saturday, thousands gathered in front of the parliament building in the Swiss capital to demand liberty, rule of law and democracy in Turkey, where the failure of a recent coup d’état has intensified violence and unrest.
But while it was a peaceful demonstration, one banner raised the hackles of Turkish authorities: it depicts the Turkish president’s head being targeted by a pistol, along with the words, "Kill Erdogan with his own weapons!". According to a journalist from Swiss News Agency, ATS, who attended the event, the banner was introduced by a group of 150 left-wing separatists.
The Turkish government demanded that Switzerland launch a criminal investigation into the display of the banner. It also reproached Switzerland for having authorised a demonstration featuring symbols of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which it considers to be a terrorist movement – a view shared by the European Union and United States, but not Switzerland.
The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed to ATS that Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter received a phone call on Saturday from his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, to complain about the incident. Swiss consul general to Istanbul Nathalie Marti was called back to the Turkish capital Ankara on Saturday to address the matter, and Walter Haffner, the Swiss ambassador to Turkey, was summoned on Sunday.
Criminal proceedings opened
The Bern-Mitteland regional public prosecutor's office officially opened a criminal investigation into the matter on Sunday.
Reto Nause, director of security for the city of Bern, confirmed to ATS that a complaint would be filed as a result of the incident, since the conditions of authorisation to protest were not met. No arrests have yet been made.
According to Reuters, the Turkish foreign ministry declared that, "the judicial and administrative steps that will be taken by Swiss federal and local authorities will be closely followed by our ministry and our efforts on this will continue.”
In addition to the social democratic party, Saturday's demonstration was organised by Switzerland’s green party as well as Kurdish associations, and was supported by some 30 other groups including the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions and Terre des Hommes Switzerland.
The organisers argue that Turkey is on the brink of an autocratic regime, with those opposing the Turkish president and his party risking the loss of their jobs or freedom. The demonstration was intended to show solidarity with those accused and imprisoned.
Speakers from Kurdish associations also called for a “no” vote on April 16, when Turkish citizens will decide on a modification to their constitution that would extend presidential power.
“It is necessary to put an end to this blind repression against those who think differently,” said Swiss Federation of Trade Unions chairman Paul Rechsteiner in a statement.
The demonstration was held two days after a meeting between Burkhalter and Cavusoglu, during the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to the embassy in Switzerland. The meeting was organised at the last minute at the Swiss parliament building at the request of Turkish authorities.
Shortly before the meeting, the Swiss foreign minister stated that it is necessary to “‘lead an intensive, very direct dialogue at all levels with Turkish officials.”
swissinfo.ch and agencies/cl