March 10, 2017 / 6:31 PM / 9 months ago

Austria stops four Turkish political meetings as row spreads

VIENNA (Reuters) - Four planned Turkish political meetings in Austria were cancelled on Friday in the latest signs of unease across Europe over a series of campaign events to rally support among expatriate Turks for President Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the International Tourism Trade Fair ITB in Berlin, Germany, March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

A spokesman for police in the city of Linz said the private owner of a venue there had cancelled an event featuring a party colleague of Erdogan.

The town of Hoerbranz near the German border cancelled a separate event with a former Turkish minister because the organisers falsely labelled it as a book presentation.

Another event was scrapped in Herzogenburg, and a spokeswoman for a hotel in Wiener Neustadt, near Vienna, said it had cancelled a meeting planned for Sunday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (C) attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool

Some European cities have blocked planned appearances by Turkish politicians to drum up support for Erdogan before an April 16 referendum on giving him sweeping new powers. Relations between Turkey and the European Union deteriorated last year when EU members criticised Erdogan for a mass crackdown on opponents in the wake of a failed coup.

Austria’s interior minister said on Tuesday he wanted to change the law to permit a ban on foreign officials making speeches in the country if human rights or public order are threatened, but the bill has not reached parliament yet.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks to the media during a visit in Nicosia, northern Cyprus March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Around 116,000 Turkish nationals live in Austria, a country of about 8.7 million.

Having survived the July coup, Erdogan says the referendum is needed to stabilise the country. European politicians accuse him of using the coup as a pretext for mass arrests and dismissals that stifle dissent.

In separate developments, the mayor of Rotterdam said Turkey’s foreign minister would not be allowed to campaign there on Saturday, and Swiss police cancelled a speech by a Turkish politician planned for Friday, citing “significant security risks”.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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