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Golden statue of Erdogan removed by German city after clashes

The larger than life artwork was part of a festival themed 'Bad News', but some in Wiesbaden didn't know that
Fireworkers lift a four-metre tall golden statue featuring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to remove it. (AFP)

A golden statue of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been removed from the German city of Wiesbaden after confrontations between his supporters and opponents erupted.

The statue, set up by artists in a town square as part of Wiesbaden’s Biennale art festival, evoked the famous statue of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The theme of the festival is “Bad News”, and organisers hoped that the statue would spark public debate around the topic.

The four-metre tall golden effigy of Erdogan was removed, by crane, in the early hours of Wednesday.

"In agreement with state police, Mayor Sven Gerich decided to have the statue removed as security could no longer be guaranteed," the city's government said on Twitter.

The statue was put up in the western German city late on Monday. City authorities had originally authorised it without knowing who the statue would depict. 

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"We put up the statue to discuss Erdogan," Wiesbaden's theatre chief Uwe Eric Laufenberg told the German DPA news agency.

"In a democracy, we have to put up with all kinds of opinions."

According to authorities, some of the city's residents were not aware that the statue was part of the arts festival.

"We have received calls from a string of irritated citizens. It is not clear to people that it is part of the Biennale," a municipality spokeswoman said. The statue has been covered in graffiti.

Since a failed 2016 coup attempt, Erdogan's crackdown on political opponents and journalists - including some German nationals - has been closely followed in Germany, home to as many as four million Turks.

The statue, which had been posed to point boldly into the distance, was quickly defaced with insults and sparked reactions from social media users.

A "slightly aggressive atmosphere" developed, a police spokesman told the DPA news agency, while city councillor Oliver Franz told the Wiesbadener Kurier newspaper that verbal confrontations had escalated into scuffles and "bladed weapons were spotted".

The statue, which depicts Erdogan raising an arm, caught the attention of the Turkish Consul General in Frankfurt, who called on the town hall to enquire about the statue.

"He wanted to know that was happening in Wiesbaden. He is a little worried because Erdogan is coming to Germany soon," said Gerich.

Erdogan is set to visit the German capital Berlin next month. Berlin and Ankara have been working to normalise relations after a protracted period of tension between the NATO allies.