Swiss, Turks open probes over 'Kill Erdogan' protest banner

AP News
Posted: Mar 27, 2017 11:01 AM

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss and Turkish prosecutors announced separate investigations Monday after protesters hoisted a banner in Switzerland's capital showing a gun pointed at an image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan next to the words, "Kill Erdogan."

Bern regional prosecutors opened a probe for alleged "public provocation of crimes or violence," Bern police spokesman Dominik Jaeggi said. Officers collected evidence when the banner was raised during a peaceful protest outside the Swiss Parliament, but did not pull it down, Jaeggi said.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said prosecutors in Istanbul have launched a separate investigation. The people responsible for the poster could face charges for crimes such as membership in a terror organization, insulting the president and promoting terrorist propaganda, the news agency reported.

Istanbul prosecutors have instructed police to identify the demonstrators who unfurled the banner, alleging that groups including the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were involved, Anadolu said. The party is banned in Turkey and considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.

"They made a poster of me with a gun pointing to my head. They say 'kill Erdogan,'" Erdogan said while campaigning Monday for constitutional changes that would grant him sweeping new powers. "No one has the power to take away the lifespan that God has designated for me."

Secretary General Regula Tschanz of the Swiss Green party, which helped organize the demonstration with pro-Kurdish advocacy groups, insisted organizers had nothing to do with the gun image. Tschanz said the rally was meant to support peace and dialogue, and called the banner "counterproductive."

"We are 100 percent against the content of that image," Tschanz said, adding that she had no idea who was behind it. The full message on the banner read: "Kill Erdogan with his own weapons."

Urs Sekinger, a coordinator with the anti-globalist group Solifonds, said he thinks an unspecified communist youth group that had begun demonstrating before the organized rally started was behind the image.

Sekinger he does not believe PKK members were involved, but noted that since the group is not banned in Switzerland it was "possible."

He said the rally drew 5,000 people, although a photographer working with The Associated Press put the figure at about half that.

The peaceful, if noisy demonstration came amid tensions between Ankara and parts of Europe over the referendum in Turkey next month on the proposed constitutional changes, and allegations of Turkish interference on the Swiss political scene.

On Friday, Swiss federal prosecutors said they had "concrete indications" pointing to alleged political espionage by people linked to the Turkish community in Switzerland.


Fraser reported from Ankara.