Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the best man as Arsenal star Mesut Ozil married Amine Gulse on Friday.
Ozil, whose grandparents moved from Turkey to Germany, invited Erdogan to be his best man in March, a decision which immediately prompted criticism from German politicans.
It is not the first time that Ozil’s association with the Turkish president, whose regime has been criticised for suppressing dissent and violating human rights, has caused controversy.
In the weeks before the 2018 World Cup Ozil was presented handing a signed shirt to Erdogan, who at the time was in the midst of a re-election campaign. Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan and Cenk Tosun of Everton also met the president in London.
The “racism and disrespect” in Germany over the events would subsequently be cited by Ozil as the reason behind his decision to retire from international football after the tournament.
“I’m a German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” he wrote.
Ozil had been criticised when news first emerged of his decision to invite Erdogan to the wedding. Helge Braun, chief of staff to chancellor Angela Merkel, said: “The fact that this has continued will have disappointed a lot of football fans – me too!”
Reports in Turkey said that Erdogan and his wife stayed at the wedding, which took place on the banks of the Bosphorous in Istanbul, for around an hour. He used his appearance at the wedding to criticise birth control.
“For years they called for birth control in this country, unfortunately, and attempted to cause our generation to become extinct,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.
Amnesty International says of Turkey under Erdogan: “An ongoing state of emergency set a backdrop for violations of human rights. Dissent was ruthlessly suppressed, with journalists, political activists and human rights defenders among those targeted.
“Instances of torture continued to be reported, but in lower numbers than in the weeks following the coup attempt of July 2016. Any effective investigation of human rights violations by state officials was prevented by pervasive impunity.”
Ozil and his wife had also used this weekend to pay for 1,000 children in developing nations to have life-changing surgery.
“As a professional footballer I am in a fortunate and privileged position. However, I invite everyone who is willing and able to help to support a very special project close to both of our hearts,” Ozil wrote.
“Amine and I will bear the expenses for surgeries of 1,000 children in need.”