Swiss reject Turkish request to remove picture linking Erdoğan to Berkin Elvan

Swiss reject Turkish request to remove picture linking Erdoğan to Berkin Elvan

GENEVA - Reuters
Swiss reject Turkish request to remove picture linking Erdoğan to Berkin Elvan Swiss authorities said on April 27 they had rebuffed a Turkish request to remove a photography installation critical of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdoğan from a public square in front of the U.N. site in Geneva.

The Swiss decision stands in contrast to Germany's move this month to allow prosecutors to pursue a case against satirist Jan Boehmermann after he recited a crude poem about the Turkish leader on German public television in March. 

The art installation by Demir Sönmez, a Kurdish-Armenian photographer who gave up his Turkish nationality in 2005, shows dozens of photographs of demonstrations that have taken place in front of the United Nations in Geneva over recent years. 

One photo shows a banner with the face of Berkin Elvan, who died after sustaining injuries at the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013. The banner also shows a message blaming Erdoğan.

When asked for comment, the Turkish consulate in Geneva referred Reuters to the embassy in Berne, whose spokespeople were not immediately available. A spokesman for the city of Geneva said the request came from the Turkish consulate. 

The embassy told Swiss broadcaster SRF it respected the freedom of any artist, but said the photo put Erdoğan "under suspicion in an unjust and unreal fashion". 

Officials in Turkey were not immediately available to comment. 

The city of Geneva said in a statement it stood by the photo exhibition, which includes pictures of protests for and against Israel, for the rights of the Yazidi minority in Iraq and in support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. 

"The exhibition of the photographs is part of defending freedom of expression and underlines Geneva's position as capital of human rights," the city's administrative council said, adding the installation would run until May 1. 

Sönmez said he was not surprised by Turkey's request. "In the end, Turkey shot itself in the foot," he told Reuters. 

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow prosecutors to investigate Boehmermann upon Erdoğan's request is opposed by two thirds of Germans, according to an opinion poll. 

Merkel was a driving force behind an EU deal with Turkey, which sees Ankara help manage the refugee crisis and be rewarded with financial aid, visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations.