Austria bars Turkish economy minister who planned to attend rally marking last year’s failed coup

Austria is among the strongest critics in the European Union of Turkey’s human rights record

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 7:36pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 7:36pm

Austria said Monday it had barred Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci from entering the country to attend a rally marking the anniversary of last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey.

“He has been barred because his visit was not planned as part of a bilateral exchange, but was about his public appearance at an event marking the coup attempt,” foreign ministry spokesman Thomas Schnoell said.

Zeybekci’s attendance at the “large event” would have represented a “danger for public order”, Schnoell added.

The rally is scheduled to take place in Vienna on Sunday.

It is being organised by the Austrian branch of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), a pro-Ankara group present in several European Union countries.

UETD spokesman Ramazan Aktas denounced Vienna’s move, while the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Austria was not sincere in protecting democratic values.

It came three days after the Dutch government warned Turkey against sending its deputy premier, Tugrul Turkes, to address a rally in the eastern Netherlands this week to mark the abortive coup.

Ties between Ankara and the EU have been strained over the crackdown that followed the July 15, 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan also complained last week that he was not allowed to speak to Turks in Germany during his visit to the country for a G20 leaders’ summit, telling a newspaper that Germany was “committing suicide”.

Turkish opposition stages huge rally for ‘justice’, in challenge to President Erdogan

Earlier this year, several member states including Austria and Germany banned pro-Ankara rallies ahead of a controversial referendum in April on granting Erdogan sweeping powers.

Turkish ministers had been heading to Europe to whip up support for a “yes” vote among millions of Turkey’s voters who live abroad.

Austria has been one of the most vocal critics in the European Union of Turkey’s security crackdown since the failed coup last July in which 240 people were killed. Vienna has repeatedly called for Turkey’s EU accession talks to be stopped.

Some 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 117,00 Turkish citizens. Many are believed to be pro-Erdogan supporters whose vote helped him win the referendum.

In the past year Turkey has jailed more than 50,000 people pending trial and suspended or dismissed some 150,000, including soldiers, teachers and civil servants, over alleged links with the exiled Muslim cleric Ankara blames for the coup.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters