Turkish FM cites freedom of expression in reaction to Dutch unease on referendum campaign

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Saturday criticized the Dutch government, referencing freedom of expression, after the government announced that his planned rally in the Netherlands was “undesirable.”

Speaking to reporters on Saturday in Antalya, Çavuşoğlu said, “What about democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly?” in criticism of the Netherlands, although Turkey has been called the worst jailer of journalists in the world.

Çavuşoğlu added that nobody can prevent them from meeting with Turkish citizens abroad amid strained ties between Turkey and Germany over the cancellation of two Turkish ministers’ rallies.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Facebook on Friday that the government had received confirmation from Turkish authorities that a campaign event in the Netherlands was planned.

Rutte said: “We will not cooperate with this [request]. We believe this is undesirable. We believe that the Dutch public space is not the place for political campaigns in other countries.”

According to a story by Reuters on Friday, the leader of an association of Dutch Turks said Çavuşoğlu was planning to attend the March 11 rally in Rotterdam in order to persuade Turkish expatriates in the Netherlands about a referendum on April 16 that will expand the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and switch Turkey to an executive presidency.

Democrats 66 (D66) party leader Alexander Pechtold and PVV leader Geert Wilders also announced that they don’t want Turkish government campaigns in Holland.

“I find it absurd that [the leader of] a country that is sliding towards dictatorial tendencies will wage a campaign [in the Netherlands],” Pechtold said on Twitter.

Wilders also said he thinks it would be unwise to permit the visit.

This week, local authorities in Germany canceled speeches by Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi amid outrage over the arrest in Turkey of Turkish-German reporter Deniz Yücel on charges of terrorism.

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