Hurriyet A top Turkish ruling party official was banned on March 17 from addressing Turkish expat community in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, in a move that is likely to further increase tensions between Germany and Turkey.
The Interior Ministry of Lower Saxony announced in a press release that it banned Mehdi Eker, deputy chair of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), from carrying out any political activity in the state, during his stay there.
Eker was on a two-day visit to Hannover, to meet with representatives of Germany's 3 million Turkish expat community, half of whom are vote in Turkey’s upcoming referendum in April 16 on constitutional changes.
Lower Saxony’s Interior Ministry said local authorities were not fully and timely informed by the Turkish side about Eker’s planned political meetings in the state other than Hannover, and the ministry decided to impose a ban on all of his political activities.
Two German police officials intervened during Eker's meeting with a small group of Turkish expats at a restaurant in Hannover, and notified him about the official notice of the ministry, which warned that disobeying the decision would constitute a criminal offense.
Eker sharply criticized the controversial ban and told reporters this move undermined European values and democratic rights.
"Is Germany not a democratic country? Are people not free here to express their opinion?” he asked.
"If people are being denied from an opportunity to learn about what they are going to vote for, you cannot claim this a democratic country,” he said.
A day before Eker’s visit, local authorities in Hannover had already revoked permission for his planned rally at a hall in the city, citing security concerns and danger to social harmony.
So far this month, German authorities have blocked nearly two dozen planned rallies in various cities by Turkish government ministers or politicians who favor constitutional change for a transition to a presidential system in Turkey.
Earlier this week, Germany’s small western state of Saarland announced that it has decided to prohibit all planned political rallies by Turkish politicians, becoming the first state to opt for a blanket ban.