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German president warns Turkey not to stray from democratic path

Published on Apr 29, 2014 1:48 AM

ANKARA (REUTERS) - Germany's president warned during a trip to Turkey on Monday against the consequences of curbing freedom of expression and he criticised Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's leadership style.

A heavy-handed crackdown on anti-government demonstrations since last year and a corruption scandal swirling around Erdogan's inner circle have generated the greatest challenge to the premier's 11-year rule and drawn the outspoken disapproval of senior officials in the European Union.

Gauck, a former East German Lutheran pastor who campaigned for the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, praised Turkey for the progress made under Erdogan on issues such as the economy and the Kurdish peace process, but added: "Recently we have also heard voices of disappointment, bitterness and outrage at a style of leadership which many see as a risk to democracy," he said in an address at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara.

Gauck said he was shocked by the government's attempts to stamp out street protests and clamp down on the media - a move that saw Twitter blocked for two weeks in the run-up to recent local elections, won comfortably by Erdogan's AK Party.

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