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Austria blocks Turkish economy minister from coup anniversary rally

Austria has blocked Turkey's economy minister from entering the country to attend an anniversary marking last year's failed coup attempt. It is the latest ban on Turkish ministers in Europe that has enraged Ankara.

Austria said Monday it has barred Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci (pictured) from entering the country to attend a rally marking the one year anniversary of the failed coup attempt in Turkey.

The decision was made because Zeybekci wanted to enter Austria to make a public appearance rather than attend bilateral talks, Austria's Foreign Ministry said.

The economy minister's attendance at a rally "represents a danger to public order and security," the foreign ministry said, adding he was "naturally welcome" for official bilateral talks, according to Austria's "Die Presse" news agency.

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, whose conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) has a good chance of coming out on top in October parliamentary elections, made the decision. Immigration is a central theme in the election.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said the decision showed that Austria was not "sincere in its approach to defending democratic values." But earlier, Zeybekci said they did not even request to speak at the July 16 event, which is being organized by a pro-government organization of Turks in Europe. 

Ties between Turkey and the European Union have been strained since last July's failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Watch video 28:31

Turkey One Year after the Failed Coup

Ankara blames the secretive network of US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen for the coup. It has also accused the West of not sufficiently condemning the coup or cracking down on followers of the Gulen movement. 

Nearly 50,000 people have been arrested and at least 100,000 dismissed from their jobs in a massive purge that has raised concerns over democracy and the rule of law in Turkey. On Sunday, the leader of Turkey's main opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, ended a nearly 450 kilometer (280 mile)"Justice March" from Ankara to Istanbul by holding a rally attended by more than a million people calling for an end to emergency rule and injustice.

Repeating trend

Austria has been one of Turkey's sharpest critics, calling for the end of the country's accession talks. 

In a statement on Monday, Austria's foreign ministry repeated its condemnation of the coup as well as the "massive wave of imprisonment and firings" and "gross restrictions on freedom of opinion and media."

Adding to tensions are allegations of Turkish agents and imams spying on suspected followers of the Gulen movement in Austria, similar to that which occurred in Germany.

Austria's decision came days after the Dutch government said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes was not welcome to attend a similar event in the Netherlands due to "the current circumstance in bilateral relations between our countries." 

Listen to audio 05:39

Inside Europe: A long walk for justice

Citing security concerns, Germany also did not provide permission to Erdogan to hold a rally during a visit to Hamburg this weekend for the G20 summit.

Earlier this year, Turkish officials accused Germany and the Netherlands of "Nazi-like" behavior after they blocked several ministers from holding rallies to drum up support among the diaspora for an April referendum to grant Erdogan sweeping powers.

Erdogan has repeatedly floated the idea of reintroducing the death penalty during speeches at home. Germany and other European countries have said they would not let the Turkish government hold rallies that promote the return of the death penalty, which if re-implemented would officially end the country's moribund EU membership bid.

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