Turkey President Erdogan Opens Large Mosque In Germany - Thousands Of Supporters And Protesters

Turkey President Erdogan Opens Large Mosque In Germany - Thousands Of Supporters And Protesters

Turkey's president has concluded a trip to Germany by opening one of Europe's largest mosques - with thousands of supporters and protesters descending on Cologne.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's controversial visit was an effort to repair ties between Ankara and Berlin, but the reception he received was cool at times.

Several opposition politicians boycotted a state dinner with Mr Erdogan held on Friday evening and German chancellor Angela Merkel was also absent.

At the inauguration ceremony for the mosque on Saturday, some waved Turkish flags and shouted Mr Erdogan's name - chanting: "Who is the greatest? Turkey."

But some protesters were demonstrating against Turkey's human rights record, restrictions on press freedom and its treatment of minority Kurds.

One protester, Cansu, said she had come from Switzerland to take part.

The 30-year-old student said: "I want to be the voice of people who can't take to the streets in Turkey, because they have been arrested, killed or otherwise suppressed."

One Erdogan supporter who attended a rally to support the president said: "Erdogan is very popular because he has done a lot for his people."

The relationship between Turkey and Germany began to sour after the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, which resulted in the arrests of tens of thousands of people.

Mr Erdogan and Mrs Merkel met twice last week - and afterwards, Mrs Merkel was cautious, saying there were "deep differences" between them on civil rights and other issues.

But she also stressed the importance of a "stable" Turkey, vital to controlling the number of migrants coming into Europe.

Mr Erdogan seeks allies as his country's economy stutters and he fights US president Donald Trump over issues such as sanctions.

He described the German visit as "successful" and coming at a "critical period" but he criticised Germany for not taking a stronger line on "terrorists" such as supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or followers of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who he blames for the coup attempt.

The mosque itself, which first opened its doors last year, has upset some residents due to its size.

The group that commissioned it is also controversial.

The Turkish-Islamic Union Of The Institute For Religion (Ditib) is funded by Turkey, runs hundreds of mosques in Germany, and some of its members have been accused of spying on Turks exiled in Germany.

Sky News

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