German city removes gold Erdoğan statue after violent clashes

German city removes gold Erdoğan statue after violent clashes

Controversial effigy of Turkish PM was part of Wiesbaden art Biennale

The German city of Wiesbaden has removed a large gold statue of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after it sparked clashes between his supporters and opponents.

“In agreement with state police, Mayor Sven Gerich decided to have the statue removed as security could no longer be guaranteed,” the city’s government said on Twitter.

Firefighters arrived shortly after midnight with a crane to lift the 4m (13ft) effigy of Erdoğan from the town square, where it had been placed on Monday by artists as part of Wiesbaden’s Biennale art festival.

Erdoğan was depicted with a raised right arm, evoking the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by American forces in Baghdad. Organisers had hoped the statue would provoke public debate about this year’s festival theme of “bad news”.

Since a failed 2016 coup attempt in Ankara, Erdoğan’s crackdown on political opponents and journalists – including some German nationals – has been closely followed in Germany, which has a significant Turkish population.

The statue, which had been posed to point boldly into the distance, was quickly defaced with insults like “Turkish Hitler”.

In Weisbaden, a “slightly aggressive atmosphere” developed, a police spokesman told the DPA news agency. City councillor Oliver Franz told the Wiesbadener Kurier newspaper that verbal confrontations had escalated into scuffles and “bladed weapons were spotted”.

“We put up the statue to discuss Erdoğan,” Wiesbaden city theatre chief Eric Laufenberg told DPA. “In a democracy, we have to put up with all kinds of opinions.”

But Emil Sänze, a local representative of the far-right, anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany blamed the outcry on “stupidity” by the organisers, who had “given a stage to a despot who spends his time humiliating Germans”.

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