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Turkey Deports Dutch Journalist over Extremist Links

Turkey Deports Dutch Journalist over Extremist Links

Thursday, 17 January, 2019 - 18:30
A general view of Istanbul, Turkey. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey deported on Thursday Dutch journalist for his suspected links to the extremist al-Nusra Front group, an al-Qaeda offshoot active in neighboring Syria.

Dutch prosecution spokeswoman Jeichien de Graaff confirmed that Ans Boersma, 31, who was put on a plane back to the Netherlands, was a person of interest in an ongoing investigation into militant activity.

"She is not personally believed to have been involved in a terrorist crime," but rather someone relevant to a wider investigation into several suspects, de Graaff said.

The spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the nature of the suspicions against the reporter.

He said Dutch authorities had not sought Boersma's deportation.

The newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad (FD), Boersma's main employer, issued a statement saying she had been briefly questioned by Dutch police after her arrival at Schiphol Airport and then released.

"Ans thinks it is possible her deportation is related to the fact that she had a relationship until mid-2015 with a Syrian man who was arrested this fall in the Netherlands because of (his) previous membership in Jabhat al-Nusra," the paper said.

Fahrettin Altun, the communications director for the Turkish presidency, confirmed Boersma's deportation in a message to foreign journalists in Turkey.

He said her ouster was "in no way related to her journalistic activities during her stay in Turkey" but was based on intelligence received from Dutch police "that Ms. Boersma had links to a designated terrorist organization."

Dutch police had "requested information about her movements in and out of Turkey," Altun added.

Later, Altun tweeted that the Netherlands had informed Turkey that the journalist had links to the al-Nusra Front.

"If a credible foreign government agency tells you that one of their citizens has links to terrorism, you don't take any chances," he tweeted. "The Dutch authorities alone are in a position to explain why they arrived at that conclusion. We won't speculate on the credibility of their intelligence."

The FD initially called her expulsion a "flagrant violation of press freedom", but later called for an explanation from Dutch police.

Boersma had been visiting an immigration office in Istanbul to extend her visa on Wednesday when she was detained, the FD said. "And suddenly you´re sitting in the airplane back to the Netherlands," Boersma said in a tweet on Thursday. "I've been "declared an 'undesirable person' in Turkey."

Boersma began working as a correspondent in Turkey in 2017 and had previously been a journalism teacher.

Turkey, the world's biggest jailer of journalists, ranks 157th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders.

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