No action will be taken against the organisers of a Bern demonstration in March that featured posters depicting the assassination of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has demanded action from Switzerland and launched its own legal prosecution in the wake of the protest march.
Bern city police told the Swiss News Agency that organisers of the demonstration could not have taken action against the banner without escalating the situation. Thousands took to the streets of Bern on March 25 to demonstrate against the ‘anti-democratic’ actions of Erdogan in Turkey.
During the demonstration, a banner was unfurled showing a gun pointed at the head of Erdogan and the slogan: “Kill Erdogan with his own weapons”. The demo also featuring symbols of the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist movement – a view shared by the European Union and United States, but not Switzerland.
Turkey responded with a telephone call to Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter and by summoning the Swiss ambassador to Ankara for a dressing down. Organisers of the protest march said they were disappointed that such a provocative banner had been seen at a peaceful demonstration.
The Bernese prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the leftwing group behind the banner - the ‘Revolutionary Youth Group of Bern’ – for allegedly using images that promote or incite violence. This probe is still ongoing, but organisers of the protest have now been cleared.
Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Turkey took a battering in the run-up to a Turkish referendum on increasing the powers of Erdogan. Turkish voters rejected the proposal last month, but Turkey fell out with several European countries as it tried to drum up support for the referendum among its diaspora population abroad.
In the build-up to the referendum, Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu was blocked from holding campaigning speeches at venues in Switzerland. Burkhalter later rebuked Cavusoglu for the nature of Turkish political campaigning in Switzerland and for alleged spying on Turkish people in Switzerland by the Turkish secret service.
Last month, Geneva authorities defied a Turkish demand to remove a photograph from an exhibition in the city, which blames Erdogan for the death of a Turkish teenager.
According to Swiss government statistics, around 68,000 Turkish citizens live in Switzerland, a nation of 8.3 million whose population is a quarter foreign. The Turkish embassy's website refers to around 130,000 Turkish citizens in Switzerland.
swissinfo.ch with agencies