Dutch PM seeks answers from Ankara as local Turks urged to report those insulting Erdogan

The Netherland's Prime Minister Mark Rutte © Vincent Kessler
The Dutch Prime Minister says he’s “surprised” and will ask Ankara for clarification following allegations that the Turkish consulate in the Netherlands sent a plea to Turks living in the country to report people insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"I am surprised. It's not clear what the Turkish government aims to achieve with this action," PM Mark Rutte told journalists during a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Dutch city Eindhoven, according to AFP. 

Rutte added that he intends for Dutch diplomatic channels to bring up the issue with their Turkish counterparts, following the Turkish General Consulate in Rotterdam making the call to its nationals to report of Ankara’s and Erdogan’s critics.

"Our ambassador in Ankara will ask for an explanation," he said. 

According to the letter which was shared on Twitter, the consulate asked Turkish citizens living in the Netherlands to report “messages from people who are insulting our president, the Turkish nation or Turkey in general,” and subsequently send the “names and the quotes” to the Rotterdam Consulate General.

The Dutch department of the Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said a number of concerned Turks living in the Netherlands have already been in contact. 

“People are afraid because they once responded to something critical on Facebook or Twitter for example. They worry about whether they can still go on holiday to Turkey with peace of mind or will they be stopped at the border,” the chairman of the CHP’s Dutch branch Axu Ozalp told the Volkskrant newspaper. “This is very worrying and we therefore also emphatically disapprove of this call.” 

The Turkish consulate in Rotterdam has issued a statement saying that the note was sent by a consular official who used an “unfortunate choice of words,” which were misinterpreted, AFP reports. 

The revelations have led to an outcry in the Netherlands, with a Dutch journalist telling RT that the campaign by the Turks is "aimed against everything that's being shared on Twitter, Facebook and even in private emails.” Frederike Geerdink, who is also an author, mentioned that Ankara is trying to “influence how Dutch Turks behave.” 

"Politicians in Holland worry, they say this is what in Holland is called 'the long arm of Ankara,' meaning that the government in Ankara tries to get a grip on their diaspora communities" in various European countries, including Germany, Britain, Belgium, and now in the Netherlands, Geerdink said. 

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Ard van der Steur announced its plans to scrap legislation which makes insulting a friendly head of state a criminal offense, Dutch News reported.

The law was last enforced in the Netherlands in 1968, when a student newspaper writer Geert Mak compared the then-US President Lyndon Johnson to a war criminal. 

The incident follows outrage in neighboring Germany after the government decided to prosecute local comedian Jan Hoehmermann for performing a poem that mocked Erdogan. 

Merkel bowed to pressure from Ankara to prosecute Boehmermann, who could be convicted under the rarely enforced section of the German criminal code, which makes it illegal to insult heads of foreign states.