Erdogan says 'spirit of fascism' rampant in Europe
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday the "spirit of fascism" was running rampant in Europe, as pro-Ankara hackers defaced top Twitter accounts in an escalating crisis.
Turkey and the European Union have become embroiled in an explosive crisis after key EU members The Netherlands and Germany blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to back constitutional changes expanding Erdogan's powers in an April 16 referendum.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused the two countries of behaving like "Nazis", comments that have left The Hague and Berlin aghast and prompted warnings from Brussels for the Turkish strongman to show moderation.
EU chiefs on Wednesday blasted his comments as "detached from reality" and incompatible with Turkey's ambitions to join the bloc.
But far from stepping back, Erdogan ratcheted up his rhetoric a further notch, comparing the treatment of non-Europeans in Europe to that of the Jews in World War II and pointing to the rise of far-right populist politicians on the continent.
"The spirit of fascism is running wild on the streets of Europe," Erdogan said in a televised speech.
"Europe is heading towards being drowned in its own fears," Erdogan said. "Turkophobia is mounting. Islamophobia is mounting. They are even scared of migrants who take shelter there."
- 'Ottoman slap' -
Several top Twitter accounts -- ranging from Germany's Borussia Dortmund football club, tennis legend Boris Becker, Amnesty International, the French economy ministry and BBC North America -- were defaced by pro-Turkey hackers with a message slamming "Nazi Germany" and "Nazi Holland."
"#NaziGermany. #NaziHolland. This is a small #Ottomanslap for you. See you on #April16. I wrote what? Learn Turkish."
The message also featured a swastika and was followed by a video showing extracts of Erdogan speeches.
According to legend, an Ottoman slap was a barehanded technique used in the Ottoman army that was strong enough to kill an opponent on the spot.
Twitter confirmed the attack. There was no immediate claim for the current mass cyberattack.
- 'Taking distance from Europe' -
Turkey has suspended high-level relations with The Netherlands and blocked its ambassador -- currently outside the country -- from returning to his post.
Many in The Netherlands -- a country bombed and occupied by the Nazis in World War II -- were hugely offended by Erdogan's comment that the country still had "vestiges of the Nazis".
Analysts believe Erdogan is exploiting the crisis to bring out nationalist votes and ensure victory in the April 16 referendum on the new constitution that opponents fear will create one-man rule in Turkey.
Jean Marcou, professor at Sciences Po Grenoble in France, said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was deliberately playing up the row as it was "not so sure of the result on April 16."
The standoff comes as the Netherlands votes in an election where Prime Minister Mark Rutte is facing a strong challenge from far-right populist Geert Wilders.
Erdogan Tuesday angered The Hague by bringing up the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, where Dutch UN peacekeepers failed to prevent the killing of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs.
On Wednesday he went further, accusing the Netherlands of massacring over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica.
"They have nothing to do with civilisation," Erdogan said in a new onslaught against the Netherlands. "They are the ones who massacred over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims."
- 'Not welcome here' -
With anger growing in Germany over Turkey's behaviour, Germany's biggest-selling daily Bild told Erdogan in an angry front page he was not welcome in the country.
"Bild tells the truth to Erdogan's face -- you are not a democrat! You are hurting your country! You are not welcome here!," said the paper.
Berlin's anger has been compounded by the jailing ahead of a trial on terror charges of dual Turkish-German national Deniz Yucel, the Turkey correspondent of the German newspaper Die Welt.
An Istanbul court Wednesday rejected Yucel's appeal against his pre-trial detention, his lawyer told AFP.
Following a similar headline in Swiss tabloid Blick on Tuesday, Erdogan responded: "All of Europe is mobilised for 'no' campaign."
Erdogan, whose country has for half a century tried to join the EU in an agonisingly slow process, said Europe after World War II claimed they "turned a new page for themselves and for the world" by forming the EU.
But he said: "They have emptied the European Union from inside with their attitude toward us."
© 2017 AFP