Germany may ban Turkish campaign events

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech at the official opening of the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover, central Germany, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2017
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Germany may ban Turkish campaign events

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany could ban future campaign events by Turkish politicians on its soil unless Ankara stops “Nazi” jibes aimed at Berlin.
Turkey and the European Union — especially its top economy Germany, with its large Turkish diaspora — are locked in a bitter dispute as tensions rise ahead of a April 16 referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Erdogan earlier accused Merkel of using “Nazi measures” after local and state authorities in Germany had refused to allow several Turkish ministers to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote there.
Merkel stressed that such insults must stop — “no ifs, no buts” — and that Germany reserved the right to “take all necessary measures, including reviewing the permissions” for campaign events it had already granted.
A stern-faced Merkel said such comments were “breaking every taboo, without consideration for the suffering of those who were persecuted and murdered” by the Nazis.
Raising the issue at the start of a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, she stressed that “appearances by Turkish politicians here can only take place on the basis of the principles of German constitutional law.”
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman earlier also condemned the insults but indicated that Berlin had no interest in entering a spiral of mutual provocations and insults.
“Who would really benefit from it if we paid back in kind, if we answered using the same language as the Turkish president,” said Martin Schaefer, ministry spokesman.
“It benefits mostly the Turkish president who... with threats, insults and more is seeking majorities of Turkish citizens in Turkey and also... in Germany for the constitutional referendum of April 16.”
To hit back with strong verbal retaliation would mean falling for Erdogan’s tactic, Schaefer said, stressing that Germany is “a strong, democratic country” that could handle such insults.
But he cautioned that “we are not defenseless or stupid or naive and, if pushed too far, the government will react.”
Other EU countries, including the Netherlands, have had similar rows with Turkey, a candidate country for membership in the bloc.
But relations with Turkey are especially important for Germany, which has been home to a large community of Turks since the “guest worker” (“Gastarbeiter“) program of the 1960s and 70s.
Over the past year Germany has also banked on a EU agreement with Turkey that has sharply reduced the influx of asylum seekers that has brought one million refugees and migrants to Germany since 2015.
However, bilateral ties have been put to the test, especially since last summer’s failed coup aimed at ousting Erdogan.
Berlin has emerged as a strident critic of Ankara’s vast crackdown since, which has seen more than 100,000 people arrested, suspended from their jobs or sacked for alleged links to the plotters or to Kurdish militants.
Both NATO partners have also rowed over a German TV comedian’s biting satire targeting Erdogan and, more recently, Ankara’s arrest of a journalist with the German daily Die Welt.
Ankara has in turn accused Berlin of harboring “terrorists” and of failing to respond to requests to hand over suspects from the coup as well as Kurds it believes are members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey on Sunday protested a pro-Kurdish rally in Frankfurt where demonstrators carried symbols of the PKK, which is listed as a terror organization not just by Turkey but also the EU and the US.


Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

Updated 14 min 19 sec ago
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Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday found a high-profile spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a teenage female devotee in 2013 and he faces a maximum of life in prison.
The verdict against 77-year-old Bapu was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state because of fears that his followers may resort to violence.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fueled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
In August last year, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and Bapu’s attorneys.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal his conviction in a higher court.
The girl in her complaint to the police in 2013 accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in the case in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the self-styled guru has a considerable following.
Religious sects also wield considerable political clout in India with several politicians as followers. Asaram is also on trial along with his son Narayan Sai in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused the two men of sexual assault.