Erdoğan’s protester-kicking aide should be barred from Germany post, groups say

Yusuf Yerkel, a former aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who was filmed kicking a protester in Turkey in 2014, should not be allowed to serve as commercial attache to Frankfurt, said groups and politicians including representatives of the Turkish community in Germany.

"It is absurd and incomprehensible how a man who is obviously violent and an enemy of fundamental rights and democracy can get into such an important position," Atila Karabörklü, head of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Turkish media reported this week that Yerkel was appointed to the post in Frankfurt. The former deputy chief of staff for Erdoğan was filmed kicking the protester, Erdal Kocabıyık, at a demonstration in the Turkish mining town of Soma. Thousands of people had gathered to protest a visit by Erdoğan to commemorate the deaths of than 300 miners in an explosion two weeks earlier.

"We cannot accept the fact that a militant person, an extremist and an anti-democrat is being used as a trade attaché. This appointment puts salt in the wounds again," Karabörklü said. Audio footage of Erdoğan allegedly beating a female shop worker in Soma during his visit had also emerged in the Turkish media at the time.

The left-wing parliamentary group for the German State of Hessen, where Frankfurt is located, also condemned the appointment.

"This man cannot represent the Turkish community in Hesse,” said the group’s integration spokesperson Saadet Sönmez, according to German newspaper Die Zeit. She said she hoped that “the German authorities make it clear that Yerkel is not welcome in Hesse and is unsuitable for the post of attaché at the Consulate General."

Die Zeit said the Turkish embassy in Germany had not responded to questions about the appointment.

Around 30 institutions and public representatives in Germany have made a joint statement declaring Yerkel as a persona non grata, Turkish newspaper BirGün reported on Wednesday.

The groups plan to congregate outside the Turkish consulate in Frankfurt on Friday and read out the declaration, the newspaper said.

Erdoğan's heavy-handed treatment of protesters during official visits also drew international headlines in May 2017 when his bodyguards clashed with demonstrators in a park outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington D.C. Erdoğan, who met with President Donald Trump, was seen watching the beatings from a limousine parked in the residency's driveway. His government says the bodyguards were acting in self defence. 

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