In scenes reminiscent of recent rallies in Istanbul and Ankara, members of Germany’s Turkish community have staged a mass show of support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Waving Turkish flags, at least 20,000 people gathered in the city of Cologne to back Turkey’s leader and denounce the recent coup attempt.
“Something like that shouldn’t happen,” said demonstrator Mehmet Gulsefgi.
“Imagine if it happened in Germany. Would it be accepted here? Nobody would allow it. No matter the country in which it happens, democracy must be supported. Everything must be dealt with according to the rule of law.”
On the eve of the rally, Germany’s high court forbade President Erdogan from addressing the crowd via video-conference.
This ratcheted up diplomatic tensions between Ankara and Berlin.
“German Constitutional Court’s decision on the anti-coup rally in Cologne is an utter backsliding in freedom of speech and democracy,” Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, Omer Celik, wrote in English on his official Twitter account.
1/ German Constitutional Court's decision on the anti-coup rally in Cologne is an utter backsliding in freedom of speech and democracy.— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) 31 juillet 2016
4/ German Court's decision to ban directly Turkish President
RT_Erdogan</a> to address a rally is completely against democratic values.</p>— Ömer Çelik (omerrcelik) 31 juillet 2016
Erdogan has said it is shameful that Western countries showed more interest in the fate of the plotters than in standing with a fellow NATO member after the coup attempt.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey should show proportionality in its pursuit of those behind the failed military coup, adding that she was following developments in the country with concern.
Germany is home to some 3 million people of Turkish origin. In Turkey’s last elections, 60 percent of them voted for Turkey’s ruling AKP Party, according to the organisation Turkish Communities in Germany.
Authorities fear tensions within Turkey could spill over onto German soil which has in the past seen violence between nationalist Turks and militant Kurds.
Police in Cologne reported an ‘aggressive’ atmosphere on Sunday, with counter-demonstrators representing various groups, including the far-right, also on the streets.