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Dutch journalist 'detained in Turkey'

April 24, 2016

Ebru Umar, a columnist for the Dutch "Metro" newspaper, says she has been detained for publishing tweets critical of the Turkish president. This comes after a diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands.

Ebru Umar türkische Journalistin
Image: cc by Oscar 2.5

The detention occurred at Umar's home in the western Turkish resort town of Kusadasi late Saturday, according to a post on the journalist's Twitter account.

"Police at the door. No joke," she wrote.

In a second tweet, she said, "I'm not free, we're going to hospital" for a medical examination before being interrogated by prosecutors.

Umar, who is a well-known atheist and feminist of Turkish origin, had written an article in the "Metro" about a recent diplomatic row between Turkey and the Netherlands, later tweeting extracts critical of Erdogan that led to her arrest.

The Dutch foreign ministry said in a tweet that it was in "close contact with" Umar and "local authorities."

In The Hague, Foreign Ministry spokesman Herman van Gelderen confirmed Umar had been detained but had few further details.

"We are aware of it, we are in contact and we're following the case very closely," he told the Associated Press news agency.

The hashtag #freeebru has been trending in the Netherlands since reports of the arrest became known.

Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected to the post in August 2014, authorities have launched nearly 2,000 lawsuits against people accused of insulting the politician.

One such case is in Germany, where the government has given the green light to authorities to begin criminal proceedings against satirist Jan Böhmermann under a decades-old lese-majeste law that many say should have long since been abolished.

Jan Böhmermann and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The 'Böhmermann Affair' has filled headlines in Germany for weeksImage: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen/R. Ghement

Twitter and tattletales

Erdogan's apparent sensitivity to all criticism of his person or politics also seems evident in the affair about which Umar wrote in her report, which involved claims that the Turkish consulate had asked Turkish organizations in the Netherlands to forward social media posts and emails deemed insulting to Erdogan or Turkey itself.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he would ask Ankara to clarify the call, saying it was unclear what purpose the Turkish government hoped to achieve.

The Turkish consulate has said that the email in question had been sent by a consular official who had used an "unfortunate choice of words."

The Netherlands has a similar law on insulting representatives of foreign states to that in Germany, but Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur told lawmakers on Wednesday that he wanted to jettison it.

Umar's detention came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and top EU officials were in Turkey to bolster an agreement that aims to slow down the flow of migrants to Europe. The EU leaders have been criticized for failing to speak out against the increasing lack of freedom of speech in the country for fear of damaging the controversial deal.

Umar is reported to have become a journalist under the influence of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 by an Islamic fundamentalist after making a controversial film about Islamic culture.

tj/se (AFP, AP)