Swiss region blocks Turkey referendum campaign rally
Swiss police blocked a rally Friday supporting a referendum in Turkey, amid uncertainty over whether the Turkish foreign minister would be allowed to host a similar event planned for Zurich this weekend.
“Police in the canton of Argau have blocked the meeting,” police spokesman Samuel Helbling told AFP, citing security concerns.
The rally featuring Hursit Yildirim, the vice president of the Istanbul chapter of Turkey‘s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), had initially been scheduled to take place in Zurich on Friday evening.
Organisers were pressed to change the venue and announced earlier Friday that it would take place at the Swiss headquarters of the Union of European Turkish Democrats in Spreitenbach in the northern canton of Argau.
But Argau police have blocked that event as well.
The moves came as several local authorities in Germany especially, but also elsewhere in Europe, have attempted to block public appearances by Turkish ministers to drum up support for a high-stakes referendum next month, aimed at boosting the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkish officials have repeatedly hit back, with Erdogan angrilycomparing Germany’s actions to “Nazi practices”.
The Swiss canton of Zurich earlier this week asked the federal government to cancel a weekend visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who also planned to host a pro-referendum rally.
Bern rejected that request, but the Hilton hotel near the Zurich airport, where Cavusoglu had been scheduled to speak, told AFP it would not allow the event to go ahead there out of concern for the safety of its guests.
It remained unclear if he would find an alternate venue for Sunday’s rally.
Planned rallies featuring Cavusoglu have also been blocked in Germany, and the Netherlands has said it would not facilitate a scheduled visit by Cavusoglu to the country on Saturday.
Meanwhile on Friday an Austrian town banned a rally which a senior official from Turkey’s ruling party was set to attend.
The gathering in the western town of Hoerbranz was billed as a “book presentation” attended by former Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz.
But police claimed organisers were in reality planning a “political rally” gathering some 400 people, saying it was called off over “risks of public disorder”.