Turkish-Dutch journalist detained over Erdogan tweet

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities on Sunday released a Turkish-Dutch journalist from police custody but barred her from leaving Turkey as they continue to investigate tweets she posted about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ebru Umar, a columnist for Metro newspaper, was detained for questioning late on Saturday at her home in the Aegean resort of Kusadasi, on the orders of a prosecutor for social media postings deemed to be "insulting to state leaders," Turkey's state-run news agency reported. The journalist had tweeted in Dutch late Saturday that police were at her door and that she was being taken to a police station in Kusadasi.

Anadolu Agency said she was released following questioning by prosecutors but has been barred from leaving the country.

In a short video posted on Metro's website, Umar said she was woken up Saturday night by two police officers knocking on her door who told her to go with them because of two tweets.

"I was treated well, I can't put it any other way," she said. "I had a good evening with a 55-year-old man discussing politics and the situation in Turkey."

She said she "is not altogether free. I am not allowed to leave the country." She said a lawyer is trying to get the travel restriction lifted because she wants to return to the Netherlands.

Human rights and media freedom groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the limited tolerance of dissent shown by authorities in Turkey, where nearly 2,000 legal cases have been opened against individuals accused of insulting the Turkish president since Erdogan came to office in 2014. Critics say the president is taking advantage of a previously-seldom used law to muzzle dissenting voices..

Umar was detained as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and top EU officials were in Turkey to bolster a deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. The EU leaders have been accused of not speaking out against Turkey's crackdown on freedom of expression because of the country's role in stopping the refugee influx. Merkel has come under criticism for her decision earlier this month to grant Turkey's request to let German prosecutors and courts decide whether a German comedian insulted Erdogan.

In a tweet, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he had called Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in the afternoon. Rutte said Umar's detention "Directly hits our core values — freedom of expression and press freedom."

Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said he was relieved Umar had been released and said he had informed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that he "deplored" the situation.

"A candidate member of the EU should not meddle with press freedom and freedom of expression," Koenders said in a statement. "I have often stressed that in discussions with Turkish colleagues and will continue to do so. It is necessary, as has been shown again."

Umar wrote a column last week for Metro criticizing an appeal sent by Turkey's consulate in Rotterdam urging Turks in the Netherlands to report cases of people insulting Turkey or its leader. She compared the letter to "NSB practices," a reference to the Dutch branch of the Nazi party before and during World War II.

Rutte last week responded to reports of the appeal by saying "it is not a good thing and our ambassador will ask for clarification from the Turkish authorities."

Earlier this week, a German reporter was detained at an Istanbul airport and sent back to Cairo where he is based. A day later, authorities denied entry into Turkey for Russian news agency Sputnik's Istanbul-based general manager.


Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

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