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article imageDutch journalist deported from Turkey over alleged terror links

By Fulya OZERKAN (AFP)     Jan 17, 2019 in World

Turkey deported a Dutch journalist on Thursday after Turkish officials said Ankara received a tip-off from police in the Netherlands that she had suspected links to a jihadist group in Syria.

However the Dutch prosecutor's office said that while it had provided information to the Turkish authorities, it had not requested her arrest and the journalist was not suspected of "a crime with terrorist intent".

Freelance journalist Ans Boersma, 31, was based in Istanbul and contributed articles to the Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad.

"I got arrested yesterday (Wednesday), got deported this morning. Flying out now," she said in a messaging group for foreign journalists in Turkey.

Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, said her expulsion was "in no way related to her journalistic activities during her stay in Turkey".

"The Turkish authorities have recently received intelligence from the Dutch police that Ms Boersma had links to a designated terrorist organisation and a request for information about her movements in and out of Turkey," he said.

Writing on Twitter, Altun said she was suspected of links to the Al-Nusra Front, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

"The Netherlands told Turkey that the reporter, who was deported today, had links to Jabhat al-Nusra," he wrote, using another name for the group.

"We acted on intelligence from the Netherlands and took a precautionary measure."

- Relationship with Syrian man -

Boersma's newspaper Financieele Dagblad reported that she was in a relationship until the summer of 2015 with a Syrian man who was arrested in the Netherlands last autumn for being a member of the Al-Nusra Front.

"And Ans thinks it is possible that her deportation is linked" to that relationship, said the newspaper where she started working in February 2017.

The Dutch prosecutor's office confirmed it had provided information to Turkish authorities concerning the journalist "in the frame of an ongoing criminal inquiry".

"The investigation concerns terrorism suspicions against other suspects," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

"The suspicions against the woman do not concern a crime with terrorist intent. No request for her arrest, expulsion or extradition has been made."

Turkey, which shares a long border with war-torn Syria, has been hit by a spate of terror attacks in recent years from groups including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Islamic State.

"Due to the seriousness of the threat, we work closely with our friends and allies, including the Netherlands, and rely on their insights to identify and neutralise threats against Turkish and European security," Altun said.

Turkey, with help from their international partners, has blacklisted tens of thousands of individuals with links to terrorist organisations as part of an ongoing effort to combat extremism, he added.

Another Turkish official, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP that the authorities would not have issued Boersma a press card if they had "national security concerns" about her.

The official said Boersma's press credentials were valid until January 31, 2019.

Human rights defenders have raised concerns over a clampdown on freedom of expression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with dozens of journalists and civil society activists put behind bars.

Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

In December, a Turkish court ordered the release from jail of an Austrian student and journalist charged with being a member of a terror group.

Max Zirngast, who writes for the far-left German-language magazine Re:volt, had been formally arrested by an Ankara court in September.


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