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Cem Özdemir
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Riedl
Politics

Özdemir to attend Erdogan state dinner to 'send signal'

Nicole Goebel
September 24, 2018

Cem Özdemir, one of Germany's fiercest critics of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, intends to "send a signal" by attending a dinner for the Turkish president during his state visit. A host of lawmakers have pledged a boycott.

https://p.dw.com/p/35Nhv

Opposition Green party politician Cem Özdemir, who has Turkish roots and has repeatedly slammed Recep Tayyip Erdogan's policies, is to attend a state dinner for the Turkish President to send a "signal" to Turkey and Germany's large Turkish community.

"The opposition belongs to politics in this country, we're an integral part of our democracy," he told German daily Tagesspiegel.

He stressed that Erdogan "clearly does not deserve a state dinner," but that the president "will have to put up with me, who stands for criticism of his authoritarian politics." Özdemir said in July that Erdogan was "not a normal president in a democracy" and should not be granted a full-blown state visit.

On Twitter, he added that "although he won't like it, that's how we do things here." He added #freethemall to his tweet, a hashtag used to protest against the imprisonment of journalists in Turkey and elsewhere. 

He warned the German government that any charm offensive by Erdogan when he visits Germany from September 27-29 would be motivated solely by economic concerns. The Turkish economy is suffering from high inflation and the plunging lira, which is hitting business confidence.

"The German government will have to demonstrate that the German state and its rule of law will not tolerate his [Erdogan's] despotic behavior and that it is not acceptable for him to take his conflicts to Germany and set up a network of spies and informers," he said.

Turkey is a 'divided country'

Özdemir is well-known to the Turkish establishment. At the Munich Security Conference in February, while staying in the same hotel as the Turkish delegation, Özdemir was called a "terrorist" by some members of the delegation and had to be given police protection.

Erdogan's AKP party accuses Özdemir of links to the Kurdish PKK party, which is banned in Turkey.

Controversial visit

A state visit is routinely granted to heads of states, involving military honors and a state dinner. However, many in Germany feel Erdogan should only have been granted a working visit because of his increasingly authoritarian rule back home and for what many perceive as his detrimental influence on Germany's Turkish community — the biggest Turkish diaspora in Europe.

Large protests are expected in various German cities, among them Cologne. Erdogan is due in the city to attend the opening ceremony for a mosque affiliated with Ditib, the controversial Turkish-Islamic Union with close ties to Ankara. Germany's domestic intelligence service is mulling putting the organization under surveillance.

Read more: Turkish 'guest workers' transformed German society

Several lawmakers have declined the invitation for dinner, among them the head of the business-friendly FDP, Christian Lindner, Green party chairs Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck as well as several politicians from the far-right AfD and the Left party.

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