Dutch journalist arrested in Turkey after anti-Erdogan tweets

AFP , Sunday 24 Apr 2016

Dutch Journalist
Dutch journalist Ebru Umar on the phone as she leaves Kusadasi's police building on April 24, 2016 in Izmir after she was briefly detained earlier in the day by Turkish police after sending tweets deemed critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to her Twitter account. (Photo: AFP)

A Dutch journalist said Sunday she was detained for several hours overnight by Turkish police after for sending tweets deemed critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ebru Umar, a well-known atheist and feminist journalist of Turkish origin, said she was hauled out of her bed late Saturday at her home in Kusadasi, a resort town in western Turkey.

"Two men were banging on the door, and said I had to go with them because of two Tweets," she told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

She said they spent the night at the police station "talking about politics and the situation in Turkey" before she was brought before a judge on Sunday.

Umar, 45, was later released, but said she is not allowed to leave the country and must report to police in a few days.

The columnist had recently written a piece critical of Erdogan for the Dutch daily Metro, extracts of which she then tweeted.

She had been due to fly back to the Netherlands on Sunday, and says she wants to return but is forbidden for the time being.

The hashtag #freeebru was trending in the Netherlands Sunday, with Dutch politicians and commentators calling for her release.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said in a statement later Sunday he was "relieved" Umar had been released.

But he slammed her arrest, saying he had contacted his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to voice his "regret" and concerns about the case.

"I made it clear that press freedom and freedom of expression is a good thing," Koenders said in a statement.

"A country that is a candidate to join the EU should continue to push for press freedom and freedom of expression," he stressed.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also telephoned his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu to voice his concerns.

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 about a diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands.

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

Rutte said he would ask Ankara to clarify the call. The Turkish consulate 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.

In September 2015 freelance Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink was deported from Turkey after being detained during clashes between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels and Turkish security forces.

It was the second time she had been taken into custody: in April Geerdink was put on trial on charges of spreading "terrorist propaganda" for the PKK but was then acquitted. 

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