Protesters in Stockholm who hung an effigy of Turkey’s president from a lamppost were trying to sabotage Sweden’s application to Nato, the Swedish prime minister has said.
Turkey still needs to approve Sweden’s application – and has made that conditional on Stockholm cracking down on groups that Turkey describes as terrorists, including those it blamed for the effigy.
A Swedish minister branded the stunt as “deplorable”, but Turkey said the condemnation was not enough.
Images of the hanged effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan near Stockholm City Hall were published on Wednesday by a pro-Kurdish group called the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava.
The group implied it wanted to evoke the hanging of Italy’s wartime fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. It urged Mr Erdogan to “take the chance to step down now, so you don’t end up upside-down in Taksim Square”.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed the stunt on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia – both of which Ankara calls terror groups.
Sweden has vowed to distance itself from both groups in order to gain Turkish support for its Nato bid, which has faced months of delays.
Turkey has said Sweden’s new centre-right coalition government, which is backed by a far-right party, has been “more determined” and easier to work with than the previous one, but the protest has triggered fury.
Mr Cavusoglu told state media that Sweden had a choice: either “turn a blind eye to this and bow down to it” or keep its promises to take action against “terror groups”.
Turkey has summoned the Swedish ambassador over the incident and cancelled a visit to Ankara by Sweden’s parliamentary Speaker.
And prosecutors in the Turkish capital have launched an investigation, according to Anadolu news agency.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the protest was an act of sabotage against his country’s Nato application, and dangerous for Sweden’s national security.
He told TV4 it was “extremely serious” to put up “a kind of mock execution of a foreign democratically elected leader” in a country like Sweden, which has a history of high-profile political murders.
But a member of the pro-Kurdish group behind the stunt told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the activists were trying to stand up for Swedish democracy – which was being “sabotaged” by Mr Kristersson.
The member of the group added that Turkey had not reacted in a way a democratic country should.