BERLIN (Reuters) - Turks living in Germany will not be allowed to vote in any referendum on reinstating the death penalty in Turkey, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in remarks broadcast on Tuesday.
Germany allowed Turks to vote last month in a referendum that endorsed broad new powers for President Tayyip Erdogan. But many local authorities banned campaign rallies, something Erdogan compared to Nazism, causing a diplomatic rift.
Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term in a September election, has said Europe should not push Turkey away despite concerns about Erdogan’s tightening grip on power and mass arrests since a coup attempt last July.
But she confirmed what her spokesman said last week, that Germany would not authorise Turkish consulates and embassies to act as polling stations on reinstating the death penalty - banned in all European Union countries - in Turkey.
“We usually don’t answer hypothetical questions but this question is unfortunately, unfortunately not so hypothetical as it is being discussed in Turkey,” Merkel told broadcaster WDR.
“I thought it was important to say that we cannot give permission on German soil to a subject matter such as the death penalty that we absolutely reject.”
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of a campaign for EU membership. Erdogan has said he will approve its reinstatement if parliament submits such a proposal or if the measure is backed in a referendum.
Embassies and consulates enjoy certain privileges under the 1961 Vienna Convention and Turkey would very likely want to hold voting on their premises to reach some 1.5 million expatriate Turkish voters.
Separately, Germany’s federal migration office said 414 Turkish citizens with diplomatic passports and other government work permits had requested asylum in Germany since last year’s failed coup, which prompted Erdogan to conduct sweeping purges of soldiers, police, civil servants and others.
The German interior ministry confirmed asylum requests had been approved from a number of Turkish applicants with diplomatic passports. They declined comment on media reports that the Turks included soldiers.
“The consequences of the failed coup attempts were taken into consideration, especially for those in the political opposition,” a ministry spokesperson said.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Reuters TV the decisions were made on a case-by-case basis, but declined to give any details about those affected, citing privacy rules.
De Maiziere acknowledged that relations with Turkey were strained, but said Germany made its decisions based on existing law and was not seeking to exacerbate the situation.
“We do what we consider the right thing to do,” he said. “Turkey is a NATO partner and is very important for us in matters of security. But the referendum decision and political developments are of great concern, obviously.”
Reporting by Joseph Nasr, Thorsten Severin, Andreas Rinke and Reuters TV; Editing by Mark Trevelyan