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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Germany removes golden statue of Turkey’s Erdogan over security fears

Authorities say it had become a magnet for pro- and anti-Erdogan speeches

Fireworkers lift a four-metre tall golden statue featuring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to remove it on late August 28, 2018. AFP
Fireworkers lift a four-metre tall golden statue featuring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to remove it on late August 28, 2018. AFP

A golden statue of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was installed at an art festival whose motto is "Bad news" has been taken down after authorities in the German city of Wiesbaden said it was becoming a security issue.

The DPA news agency reported that the 4-metre (13-foot) sculpture depicting Mr Erdogan with a raised right arm, evoking the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by American forces in Iraq, was removed just after midnight in the central city.

Since its erection Monday, authorities said it had become a magnet for pro- and anti-Erdogan speeches and provoked conflict.

Wiesbaden State Theater director Uwe Eric Laufenberg defended that debate as being the installation's purpose, saying "we displayed the statue in order to discuss Erdogan".

He says "in a democracy, one must tolerate all opinions".

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Local media reported that city authorities had approved the statue for the festival but did not know that the Turkish leader would be the person depicted on the golden effigy.

Germany has a large Turkish population and Mr Erdogan and other Turkish politicians had previously sought to campaign in Germany ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections held in June. Berlin banned any campaigning, requiring foreign dignitaries to obtain the approval of the German government before appearing at any event aimed at a foreign electorate.

Earlier this month, Mr Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed bilateral ties ahead of a planned meeting in Berlin at the end of September.

Ankara and Berlin were embroiled in a diplomatic spat in 2017 over the arrest and jailing of several German nationals. Berlin advised against travel to Turkey or to do business there, a warning that angered Mr Erdogan.

For its part, Ankara was infuriated with the German acceptance of former Turkish military officers and other officials it believes were behind the failed military coup attempt in July 2016.

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