Dutch journo arrested for Turkey criticism

A prominent Dutch journalist has been detained by Turkish police while on holiday, Dutch officials say, a week after she criticised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in print for clamping down on dissent.

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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.

She tweeted on Sunday that she had been released but was not allowed to leave the country.

In the free newspaper Metro last week, Umar called Erdogan a “dictator” and criticised a Turkish consular official in the Netherlands for asking all Turks there to report incidents of insults against Erdogan in the country.

The call was widely criticised and later withdrawn.

Erdogan is known for 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 uses the courts to stifle dissent.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who joined the criticism of the Turkish official’s call, said he had spoken with Umar after her arrest. “Had telephone contact with Ebru Umar last night,” he said on his official Twitter account on Sunday.

A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said of her detention: “We are aware of this and we are following the situation closely. We are in contact with her.”

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey punishable by up to four years in jail, but the law had previously been invoked only rarely.

Since Erdogan became president in 2014, prosecutors have opened more than 1800 cases against people for insulting him, the justice minister said last month.

Those who have faced such suits include journalists, cartoonists, academics and even school children.