Berlin urges Turkey to respect freedom to demonstrate

Berlin urges Turkey to respect freedom to demonstrate

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Berlin urges Turkey to respect freedom to demonstrate

People gather to react as Turkish riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, near city's main Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. AP photo

Germany on Sunday urged Turkey to "respect the freedom to demonstrate and freedom of expression," saying that Ankara was sending the wrong signal by cracking down on protesters.

"The German government has warned several times: freedom to demonstrate and freedom of expression must be guaranteed and peaceful citizens respected," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a tweet, reacting to the latest violence in Turkey.

In another tweet, Seibert said there should be "a continuation of dialogue" in Turkey, adding: "The German government again calls on all parties to reason".

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that "through its regrettable behaviour, the Turkish government was sending completely wrong signals to the world and to us in Europe".

The minister added that he hoped the Turkish government would "contribute to calming" the situation down and that it would "reach out to those who want to exercise their right to demonstrate".

"When there are demonstrations, it is a sign of a mature civil society. We should not be frightened of them in a democracy, we should rejoice," he said.

Germany is home to the biggest Turkish community in the countries of the European Union and demonstrations have been held in solidarity with the opposition to Erdogan's Islamic-rooted regime.

About 20 artistes in Germany, including Fatih Akin -- a director of Turkish origin -- wrote an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking her to help end the violence in Turkey.

"The events and the developments in Turkey speak for themselves. Please do not remain passive. Together with your European colleagues, ensure that the Turkey government stop the violence against the population immediately," said the artistes in the letter seen by AFP.

Akin also wrote an open letter to Turkish President Abdullah Gül, saying: "I appeal to your conscience -- stop this folly." Two of Turkey's main trade union federations said they would go on strike nationwide Monday in protest at a police crackdown on anti-government demonstrators in Istanbul overnight.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meanwhile defended the violent crackdown, saying it was his "duty" to order the evacuation of Istanbul's Gezi Park after demonstrators defied his warnings to leave.