Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again shown the livestream footage of the Christchurch mosque massacre – a day before New Zealand’s foreign minister is due to visit Istanbul.
The 65-year-old leader played clips from the horrific video as an election campaign prop despite criticism from officials in Wellington.
On election trail for a March 31 local vote, Erdogan has projected the video and repeatedly referenced the attack that killed 50 people, saying it targeted Islam and Turkey.
New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, is scheduled to visit Istanbul tomorrow. He has protested that politicisation of the massacre ‘imperils the future and safety of the New Zealand people and our people abroad, and it’s totally unfair’.
The gunman’s so-called ‘manifesto’ mentions Turkey and the minarets of Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia, now a museum, that was once a church before becoming a mosque during the Ottoman empire.
At a rally in the northwestern city of Eskisehir, Erdogan again showed both the video and the so-called manifesto in order to attack the main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu who had warned against ‘terrorism rooted in the Islamic world.’
Erdogan compared Kilicdaroglu to far-right Australian senator Fraser Anning, who drew ire for blaming the New Zealand attacks on Muslim immigration.
New Zealand authorities moved quickly to try and stop the spread of the shooter’s video, warning that anyone sharing the footage faced prosecution, and Facebook removed the images from hundreds of thousands of pages.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed yesterday that Peters will travel to Turkey to ‘confront’ comments made by Erdogan on the killing of at least 50 people at mosques in Christchurch.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Friday prayers.
Erdogan – who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections – has said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.
The comments came at a campaign rally that also included video footage of the shootings. Ardern said Peters would seek urgent clarification.
‘Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey,’ Ardern told reporters in Christchurch. ‘He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face.’
Erdogan also triggered tensions with Australia for comments suggesting that Australians and New Zealanders with anti-Muslim views could return home in coffins.
Australia said Thursday that progress had been made on mending ties after a spokesman for Erdogan said the president’s words earlier this week were ‘taken out of context.’