Dutch journalist arrested in Turkey after criticizing Erdogan
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Dutch journalist arrested in Turkey after criticizing Erdogan

Nearly 2,000 legal cases of insulting Turkish president are open, as embassy in the Netherlands reportedly seeks out more instances

Ebru Umar, aged 45, (CC BY Oscar, Wikipedia)
Ebru Umar, aged 45, (CC BY Oscar, Wikipedia)

ANKARA, Turkey — A Dutch journalist was arrested early Sunday at her home in Turkey for tweets deemed critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to her Twitter account.

“Police at the door. No joke,” wrote Ebru Umar, a well-known atheist and feminist journalist of Turkish origin.

Umar recently wrote a piece critical of Erdogan for the Dutch daily Metro, extracts of which she then tweeted, leading to her arrest.

“I’m not free, we’re going to the hospital” for a medical examination before being taken to face prosecutors, she said in a second tweet as she left her home in Kusadasi, a resort town in western Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during the mukhtars (local town government heads) meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on March 16, 2016. (AFP/Adem Altan)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during the mukhtars (local town government heads) meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on March 16, 2016. (AFP/Adem Altan)

The Dutch foreign ministry said in a tweet that it was in “close contact with” Umar and “local authorities” and the Dutch embassy in Istanbul was “actively engaged” in the case, which had its “full attention.”

Umar, who reportedly became a journalist under the influence of Theo van Gogh — a Dutch filmmaker later murdered for making a controversial film about Islamic culture — had written in the Metro about a diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands.

A political storm erupted this week over reports that an email sent by the Turkish consulate to Turkish organizations in the Netherlands asked people to forward emails and social media posts which insult Erdogan or Turkey.

In her column last week, Umar compared the email sent out by the Turkish consulate to “NSB practices,” a reference to the Dutch branch of the Nazi party before and during World War II.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he would ask Ankara to clarify the email call, saying it was not clear what the Turkish government aimed to achieve.

The Turkish consulate for its part said the note was sent by a consular official who used an “unfortunate choice of words” that was misinterpreted.

The case followed outrage in Germany after the government there gave a green light for authorities to begin criminal proceedings against popular comic Jan Boehmermann for performing a satirical poem about Erdogan.

Trials in Turkey for insulting Erdogan have multiplied since his election to the presidency in August 2014, with nearly 2,000 such cases currently open.

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