Dutch Journalist Who Criticized Erdogan Detained in Turkey

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (above) is known for his intolerance of criticism and his readiness to take legal action over perceived slurs. A prominent Dutch journalist has been detained by Turkish police for publishing a column in Netherlands criticizing Erdogan's clampdown on dissent. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By David Dolan and Thomas Escritt

ISTANBUL/AMSTERDAM, April 24 – A prominent Dutch journalist has been detained by Turkish police, a Dutch official said on Sunday, a week after she wrote a column published in the Netherlands in which she criticised President Tayyip Erdogan for his clampdown on dissent.

Erdogan is known for his intolerance of criticism and his readiness to take legal action over perceived slurs. At his behest, prosecutors in Germany are pursuing a comedian for mocking him. Critics say Erdogan is using the law to stifle dissent.

Columnist Ebru Umar, who is of Turkish descent and an outspoken critic of Erdogan, was detained by police overnight in Turkey where she was on holiday.

A spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry confirmed that Umar had been detained by police. “We are aware of this and we are following the situation closely. We are in contact with her,” he said. He declined to give further details.

Last week she wrote an article in the free newspaper Metro criticising a Turkish consular official in the Netherlands for asking all Turks to report incidents of insults against Erdogan in the country. The call was widely criticised, including by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and was later withdrawn.

Umar called Erdogan a “dictator” in the article.

On her official Twitter account, Umar tweeted overnight: “Police in front of the door. No joke.” She later tweeted that she was being taken to a police station in Kusadasi, a resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast.

Her Twitter feed showed she had recently engaged in spirited exchanges with her critics on Twitter. She reposted a tweet from someone claiming to have reported her to the police.

Turkish prosecutors have opened more than 1,800 cases against people for insulting him since he became president in 2014, the justice minister said last month.

Those who have faced such suits include journalists, cartoonists, academics and even school children. Erdogan has said he is open to criticism, but draws the line at insults.

Germany has decided to allow prosecutors to pursue a case against a German comedian who mocked Erdogan, a decision that has angered many Germans, who see it as a sop by Chancellor Angela Merkel to an authoritarian leader.

Last year Turkey deported another Dutch journalist after she was detained on suspicion of aiding Kurdish militants.

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