Netherlands expels Turkish minister as pro-Erdogan rally row mounts

Dutch-Turkish demonstrators hold Turkish flags as they gather outside the Turkish consulate. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Rotterdam, Netherlands Mar 12, 2017, 01.27 AM (IST)

A Turkish minister was escorted back to Germany from Rotterdam by Dutch police after being prevented from addressing a rally, the city's mayor said early Sunday.

Turkey's family minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, who had arrived late Saturday, was "on the way from Rotterdam to Germany," mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters, adding she was being taken to the border and expelled. 

Kaya was back in Istanbul on Sunday where she condemned The Hague’s "ugly" treatment.

"We were subjected to rude and tough treatment... Treating a female minister this way is very ugly," Kaya told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, where she was welcomed by a crowd waving Turkish flags, AFP reported.

"As a minister holding a diplomatic passport, I don't have to get permission to come together with our citizens at our consulate, which is considered Turkish territory," said Kaya.

"We were stopped 30 metres (yards) from the consulate building and were not allowed to access it. And our chief consul was not allowed to exit the consulate building to meet us... We were held for hours," Kaya added. 

"We were subjected to inhumane, immoral treatment. We had a bitter night in Holland."

According to AFP, protestors took down the Dutch flag at the Istanbul consulate.

The Netherlands is home to some 400,000 people of Turkish origin, and Ankara is keen to harness votes of the diaspora in Europe ahead of an April 16 referendum on boosting presidential powers.

Also on Sunday, The Hague refused to allow foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s plane to land ahead of a planned rally, with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan likening the ban to Nazism.

Police also resorted to using water cannon and horses to disperse hundreds of angry demonstrators who had gathered outside the Turkish consulate.

The port city's mayor Aboutaleb confirmed they had asked the police to break up a "few groups" and "try to get everyone to return home" as tensions mounted among the 1,000-odd people who gathered outside the consulate.

The Turkish family minister was planning to attend a rally that aimed to boost Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plan to enhance presidential powers.

"Netherlands is violating all international laws, conventions and human rights by not letting me enter Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam," the minister said in a tweet.

The Netherlands called out Kaya's decision to come to Rotterdam as "irresponsible".

"In this context minister Kaya's visit was irresponsible. Through contacts with the Turkish authorities, the message was repeatedly conveyed that minister Kaya is not welcome in the Netherlands .... nevertheless, she decided to travel," the Dutch government said in a statement.

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 to decide whether the president of the country can become the head of the state, scrap the prime minister's role, appoint ministers, prepare the budget and have the powers to sign executive orders.

The Erdogan administration has been looking to drum up support not just in Turkey, but also in Germany, The Netherlands and Austria, countries that have a sizeable Turkish diaspora.

But the three western European countries have been wary about Erdogan's wish to expand his powers and have asked Ankara to not hold rallies in their countries, sparking the Turkish government to condemn the countries for trying to crack down on democratic freedom.

Earlier, Dutch authorities had also refused Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu permission to land in Rotterdam.

Erdogan responded by likening the Dutch to Nazis and fascists.

“You can stop our foreign minister's plane all you want, let's see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on,” Erdogan said in retaliation.

He had also labelled the Germans as Nazis a few days earlier.

(WION with inputs from AFP)