Police cars stand in front of the closed festival hall in Germany’s southwestern town of Gaggenau on March 2, 2017, where Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag had planned to address supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo by AFP)
German authorities have evacuated the city hall of the southwestern town of Gaggenau over a bomb threat received a day after the town’s mayor cancelled an event where Turkey’s justice minister was scheduled to deliver a speech.
Police started its search operation after the building was evacuated on Friday.
In response to a question about any connections between the evacuation of the city hall and the cancellation of the event, mayor Michael Pfeiffer said, “We presume this at the moment, but we do not know for sure. We presume there is a direct link.”
“We do not know how seriously we should take this threat,” Pfeiffer said.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag had planned to address supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in the festival hall of the town on Thursday. Bozdag’s planned speech was as part of Ankara’s campaign to rally support among Germany’s estimated 1.5 million Turkish citizens for the April 16 referendum on expanding the powers of the Turkish presidency.
The German officials cited a lack of space as the main reason for cancelling the meeting. Bozdag condemned the move in return, claiming it smacked of hypocrisy.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Germany of double standards over cancelling Bozdag’s planned speech and  noted that Berlin must “learn how to behave” if it wanted to maintain relations.
A day earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry had summoned German Ambassador to Ankara Martin Erdmann to protest the cancellation of rallies in support of Erdogan ahead of the referendum.
Meanwhile, the German Press Agency, citing an official from the city of Cologne, said a March 5 event, where Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci would be holding a pro-Erdogan rally, has also been canceled.
On Wednesday, a group of German legislators urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop the Turkish president from entering the country while Deniz Yücel, a Turkish-German journalist for German national daily Die Welt, continues to be held in an Istanbul prison since February 14.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish Ambassador to Berlin Huseyin Avni Karslioglu on Tuesday, with Merkel describing the arrest as “bitter and disappointing.”
Relations between Turkey and Germany have soured following a series of disputes since a failed coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan last year.
Turkish officials say over 240 people were killed and more than 2,100 others injured following the botched July 15 putsch.
Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of the post-coup crackdown.

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