Violence erupts after mourning: Germany's President urges rights for Turks - Victims of tyranny caught in continent's rules

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The Independent Online
COLOGNE - Angry Turkish demonstrations erupted into violence in two German cities yesterday, only hours after a memorial service for five Turks killed last Saturday. In Cologne, 22 young Turks were arrested after gangs smashed dozens of windows, pillaged several shops and attacked a bus and two police vans. In Hamburg, a dozen youths smashed the windows of a Turkish bank and Turkish travel agency, police said.

The violence cast a shadow over a ceremony of mourning in which Germany's President Richard von Weizsacker had urged Germans to reach out to foreigners, offer them protection and a full part in German society. 'The entire country mourns,' he said. 'We are painfully aware of the peril to our civilisation, every time that immoral xenophobia surfaces.'

'The murders at Molln and Solingen are not disconnected, isolated incidents,' Mr von Weizsacker said, referring to the two attacks that have claimed eight Turkish lives in six months. 'They are the result of a climate generated by the extreme right. Even lone killers do not emerge from just nowhere.'

Flanking Mr von Weizsacker were three representatives from the Turkish government, including the Minister for Human Rights, Mehmet Kahraman, who appealed to Bonn to take 'the necessary measures' against violent neo-Nazis.

In Solingen, more than 3,000 took part in a rally after Islamic prayers were held outside the Turks' house, gutted by the arson attack.

Overnight, hundreds of Turkish and German youths erected barricades in central Hamburg and hurled stones at police, who used batons and water cannon to quell the demonstration, making 48 arrests. Twenty-nine police were injured, three of them seriously, a spokesman said.

Flags across Germany were lowered to half-mast, and about 100,000 people, according to trade union estimates, took part in work stoppages and rallies as a sign of respect.

In a move likely to create a rift with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Mr von Weizsacker - whose role is mainly honorary and outside the political fray - sided with those demanding that long-term Turkish residents be granted dual nationality or at least a right to vote. It would be 'more honourable and more humane', the President said, if Germans thought of Turks - who currently are so-called guest-workers - as 'German citizens of Turkish origin'.

Mr Kohl, who came under fire for refusing to attend the ceremonies, meanwhile announced he would set up a 'round table' to discuss the bloodshed at Molln and Solingen. He will meet representatives from churches, trade unions, federal and state governments, family organisations and the media to 'work out a means of dealing with what caused the attacks', his spokesman said.

The five Turks are to be buried in their home village of Mercimek, north-east of Ankara, today. Two chartered planes left Cologne military airport yesterday with the bodies.