Turkish diplomat 'seeks Swiss asylum'

File pic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption After the botched coup against President Erdogan, thousands of people have been arrested or have lost their jobs

Turkey's deputy ambassador to Switzerland has claimed asylum, according to Swiss media.

According to Tages-Anzeiger (in German), Volkan Karagoz is among a number of Turkish diplomats seeking protection from a purge of officials.

After a failed coup in July 2016, Turkey arrested or dismissed tens of thousands of suspected followers of US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The Swiss migration service said it could not comment on individual cases.

However, the government in Bern said this week that some Turkish holders of diplomatic passports had sought asylum.

Tensions have escalated between Turkey and several European countries in recent weeks as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tries to persuade expatriate Turks to back a campaign to extend his powers in an April referendum.

The Swiss daily said that Mr Karagoz and his family had decided to seek asylum when he was recalled by the government in Ankara last month.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Chancellor Merkel appealed to Turkey to end its "sad and misplaced" comparisons to Nazism

The Swiss government says that since the attempted coup, 408 Turkish nationals have sought asylum, including a few with diplomatic passports. Officials said they could not give further details.

Last month, Germany said it had received 136 requests for asylum from Turks holding diplomatic passports since the botched coup. The families of consular and embassy officials also hold diplomatic passports. A number of Turkish officers posted to Nato have sought asylum in recent months.

'Nazi comparisons have to stop'

Mr Erdogan has accused Germany of resorting to "Nazi practices" in response to the authorities' decision to cancel rallies in the country - which has a large Turkish population - involving Turkish ministers.

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Image caption Turkey's foreign minister was unable to hold a rally in Hamburg this week

Chancellor Angela Merkel told German MPs on Thursday that such remarks were sad, misplaced, and had to stop. "Nazi comparisons only lead to distress," she added.

Mr Erdogan said on Turkish TV that he still hoped to take his referendum campaign to Turkish voters in Europe. Germany has some 1.4 million eligible voters.

However, his attempt to whip up support received another blow on Thursday when a Swiss hotel in Zurich cancelled a planned appearance by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu because it could not guarantee its guests' security.

The Swiss government later turned down a request from the Zurich authorities to cancel the minister's visit to the city on security grounds. The Zurich cantonal authority said there was a risk of heavy demonstrations, but the government said in a statement that the threat was not so high as to restrict freedom of speech.

Mr Cavusoglu had to address supporters in Hamburg on Tuesday from the balcony of the consul's residence when a building scheduled to host a rally was closed.

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