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Pro-Erdogan Islamist Rally Cancelled in Netherlands After Wilders Protest

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A rally in Rotterdam to seek support for a “yes” vote in a Turkish referendum on constitutional reform that would give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more power was canceled Wednesday, amid security concerns.

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb wrote in a letter to city aldermen that the owner of a hall in the city that was to have hosted the meeting had canceled. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had planned to address the rally.

Aboutaleb added that even if the venue had not pulled the plug on the meeting that he likely would have banned it “because of the risk to public order and security.”

Tensions have been high in Rotterdam’s Turkish community since last year’s failed coup aimed at toppling Erdogan.

Earlier Wednesday, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders said that Cavusoglu was not welcome in the Netherlands.

Dutch Freedom Party leader (Partij Voor De Vrijheid, PVV) Geert Wilders (L) holds a banner reading “Get out! This is our land” during a protest in front of the Turkish embassy at The Hague on March 8, 2017. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty)

Amid tight security, Wilders held a brief demonstration Wednesday outside Turkey’s embassy in The Hague to protest the planned rally featuring the minister.

Standing in front of a banner saying: “Stay Away! This is our country,” Wilders called Erdogan a “dictator” and said, “We will not help strengthen a dictatorship.”

The demonstration came the morning after Cavusoglu addressed a rally in the German city of Hamburg and a week before Dutch elections in which Wilders is forecast to make strong gains.

It was not immediately clear if Cavusoglu, who was in neighboring Germany on Tuesday and Wednesday, would seek to hold a rally somewhere else in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government has called such a rally “undesirable.”

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