19 September 2011, Monday
A bomb threat by Kurdish protesters delayed a speech by Turkish President Abdullah Gül in Berlin on Monday, when German police evacuated the city’s central Humboldt University just as he was due to speak.
Gül eventually gave an abridged version of his speech two hours later, to a limited audience.
“There are people who wanted to delay this event,” he said, “and when they heard that I still wanted to hold the speech, they made a bomb threat.”
“We will never submit to terror,” he said. “Any organisation that makes a bomb threat is a terror organisation.”
Police asked people to leave the auditorium at the Humboldt University, on downtown Berlin’s Unter den Linden boulevard, shortly before Gül was to deliver a speech on Turkish-German relations.
The alert came after a caller to the police emergency number made a bomb threat and said “people should be taken to safety,” police spokesman Guido Busch said.
Officers were searching the building to see whether there was anything suspicious.
Gül was due at a state banquet Monday evening at German President Christian Wulff’s Bellevue palace.
Gül held a meeting with Wulff earlier Monday, saying that “Turkey can make a major contribution to Europe.”
“There was a threat called in regarding the Humboldt University where the Turkish president was to give a speech, which we took seriously and thus evacuated the area,” Berlin police spokesman Michael Gassen said.
Police searched the building but found nothing untoward.
At the start of his speech, Gül said Roj television, a pro-PKK station, had been urging viewers all day to disrupt his visit to the university, on the Unter den Linden avenue.
Opposite the building, some 50 demonstrators chanted and waved banners in support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan.
Slight scuffles broke out as police struggled to contain a throng of people trying to enter the building after the alert was called off. Many students were of Turkish origin.
Gül arrived at the university with his wife and began speaking around 1815 GMT, kicking off his address with a reference to the protesters, who marched in support of Turkey’s largest ethnic minority.
The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. More than 40,000 people have died in the 27-year-old conflict.
TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH AP/REUTERS, BERLIN