BERLIN/MUNICH (Reuters) - A row broke out on Sunday between a leading German politician of Turkish origin and Turkey’s delegation at the Munich Security Conference, with the lawmaker being given police protection after what he said was a tense encounter with Turkish bodyguards.
Cem Ozdemir, co-leader of Germany’s ecologist Greens until late last month and a critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he was given protection at the conference after police told him Turkish security, staying in the same hotel, had accused him of being a “terrorist”.
“(The police) told me there was a problem with Turkish security, that they had pointed out that a terrorist, or a member of a terrorist organization, was staying (in the hotel) -so me,” Ozdemir told reporters after returning to Berlin.
He said that when he checked into his Munich hotel on Friday, Turkish bodyguards had cast nervous looks and pointed at him. On Saturday morning, a group of officers from the Bavarian police were outside his door to protect him, he said.
Munich police said in a statement they gave protection to a number of people at the conference, including Ozdemir, but could not confirm what Turkish delegates may have said about him.
Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that the Turkish delegation to the conference was staying at the same hotel as Ozdemir.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu adamantly denied that Ozdemir had been targeted in any way, and accused the former leader of the environmental Greens party of trying to disrupt German-Turkish relations.
“This is not true. It’s fabricated,” Cavusoglu told reporters on the sidelines of the annual conference. “This is outrageous.”
He said he had checked with Turkish security whether anyone had been identified as a possible terrorist, adding: “They said, ‘no, it’s not true’.”
Cavusoglu said Ozdemir had played up the issue because he was “losing ground” at home, adding: “I think that’s why he did it – to be more visible, to (get) some attention.”
The episode came after a Turkish court freed a German-Turkish journalist on Friday pending trial after indicting him for alleged security offences - a move which promised to lead to an easing of tensions between the NATO allies.
Ozdemir last year called Erdogan “a hostage-taker” after Ankara detained two further German citizens, taking the total then to 12.
Greens lawmaker Claudia Roth told Reuters: “It is clear what the problem in Turkey is, and that is that anyone who dares to criticize Erdogan’s politics is immediately branded a terrorist. If Cem Ozdemir is a terrorist, then I am probably one as well.”
Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Joern Poltz and Reuters TV; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Susan Fenton