Cologne police won't rule out canceling a planned demonstration by supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if they cannot ensure public safety. Tensions have risen in Germany following Turkey's failed coup.
In a press conference Friday, the police chief in the western German city of Cologne said they had estimated up to 30,000 people, most of them Erdogan supporters, could take part in the rally scheduled for Sunday. The protest organizers, the Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD), a pro-Erdogan group, were expecting about 20,000 people. Several counter-demonstrations were also planned.
"We are expecting an atmosphere which is highly emotionally charged," Cologne police chief Jürgen Mathies said.
About 2,300 police officers, including some who speak Turkish, are to be on duty.
German authorities have also demanded that the rally organizers provide them a list of the planned speakers amid reports senior Turkish politicians would be attending.
"We will constantly assess the situation. Should we come to the conclusion that public safety cannot be ensured, I will cancel the demonstration, even at short notice" Mathies added, warning that police would intervene against any kind of violence "quickly, decisively and forcefully."
'Don't import conflict'
Some three million people of Turkish origin live in Germany, the world's largest Turkish diaspora. About half of those are eligible to vote in Turkish elections, and in the latest vote, the AKP party founded by Erdogan gained 60 percent, a bigger share than in Turkey. Following the failed coup and the series of purges in its aftermath - including a call from Ankara for Germany to hand over alleged supporters of accused coup-plotter Fethullah Gulen - concern that the tensions will play out on German soil has increased.
The state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Cologne is situated, urged Turkish residents to show restraint.
The planned counter-demonstrations included those organized by the far-right party Pro NRW and the HoGeSa (Hooligans against Salafists) group. A demonstration called "stop Erdogan" for "democracy and human rights in Turkey" has been organized by the youth wings of four German political parties: the Greens, the Social Democrats, the Left party and the Free Democrats.
se/kms (dpa, epd, AFP)