Austria bars Turkish economy minister over rally plans

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Austria has banned Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci from entering the country to take part in a political march marking the anniversary of a failed military coup against the Ankara government.

“He has been barred because his visit was not planned as part of a bilateral exchange, but was about his public appearance at an event marking the coup attempt,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Thomas Schnoell told media on Monday.

Schnoell explained that the minister’s attendance at the rally would have threatened “public order.”

Austria’s ban comes days after the Dutch government warned Turkey against sending its deputy prime minister, Tugrul Turkes, to address a rally in the eastern Netherlands this week to mark the anniversary of last July’s abortive coup.

European Union countries, along with international rights groups, have been critical of Turkey’s massive post-coup crackdown, which has seen more than 50,000 people behind bars pending trial.

Earlier this year, several EU countries hosting large Turkish populations, including Austria and the Netherlands, banned pro-Ankara rallies ahead of a controversial referendum in April on granting sweeping powers to the president.

Turkish ministers had been heading to Europe to whip up support for a ‘Yes’ vote among millions of Turkey’s voters who live abroad.

Some 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria.

Many of the Turkish nationals living across Europe are believed to be supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Expat votes are said to have significantly helped Erdogan win the April referendum on overhauling the constitution.

The EU has warned Ankara that such constitutional amendments equal forfeiting Turkey’s EU membership request.

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