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German justice minister raises alarm over hate speech in AKP election campaign in Germany

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Germany’s justice minister has written to the interior and foreign ministers expressing concern over hate speech in Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) election campaign in Germany ahead of the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service reported, citing the Rheinische Post newspaper.

According to the report, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann sent a letter to Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock highlighting the need to take measures against hate speech that might be used in election campaigns in Germany before Turkey’s May 14 elections.

The letter reportedly stated that supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are expected to conduct a stronger campaign in Germany in the coming weeks, and messages containing hate speech can be expected as part of campaign activities.

The letter followed an incident in Germany in January in which AKP lawmaker Mustafa Açıkgöz’s threatening language was interpreted as hate speech. In video footage circulating on social media, Açıkgöz is seen calling for the “destruction” of supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the faith-based Gülen movement during a meeting of the Grey Wolves, which are seen as the paramilitary wing of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of Erdoğan’s AKP.

The speech triggered condemnation and the summoning of Turkey’s ambassador in Berlin.

Buschmann’s letter reportedly noted that some Turkish officials would deliberately use language that undermines human dignity in their campaign activities against political rivals, which is unacceptable and a violation of freedom of thought. He called for increased attention to the issue on the part of the relevant local authorities and emphasized the need to carefully enforce the obligation for foreign officials to obtain permission for campaign activities, DW said.

Under a regulation that came into effect in Germany in 2017, officials from non-EU countries are required to obtain permission from the German government for official election campaign activities targeting German citizens. During the three months before elections, campaign activities are not allowed. However, there are “gray areas” where German associations and organizations with ties to Turkey or Turkish individuals without official political status can carry out election activities, according to Lamya Kaddor, the Green Party’s domestic policy spokesperson.

Voting in Germany in the May 14 elections in Turkey could play an important role, especially for the AKP and Erdoğan. In 2018, 64.8 percent of voters living in Germany who went to the polls voted for Erdoğan for the presidency and 56 percent for the AKP in the parliamentary elections.

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