Turkey Deports Dutch Journalist, Alleges Link to Al Qaeda

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  • TEMPO.CO, Amsterdam - Turkey deported a 31-year-old journalist on Thursday who works for Dutch newspapers, accusing her of links to the militant Nusra Front, an al Qaeda offshoot involved in neighboring Syria's war.

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

    "She is not personally believed to have been involved in a terrorist crime," but is a person of interest in a wider investigation into several suspects, de Graaff said. She is wanted for questioning about her alleged marginal involvement but has not been taken into custody.

    It was unclear exactly what Turkish authorities believe Boersma did wrong. The Netherlands sought assistance from Turkish authorities for their case but had not requested her extradition.

    Turkish officials said Boersma had "suspected terrorism links" and later referred to the Nusra Front, which now falls under the Tahrir al-Sham umbrella, the most powerful jihadist alliance in Syria's Idlib province bordering Turkey.

    TERRORIST LINKS

    President Tayyip Erdogan's office said Turkish authorities had received Dutch police intelligence saying Boersma "had links to a designated terrorist organization (as well as) a request for information about her movements in and out of Turkey."

    Turkey's presidential palace said Boersma - who was educated in Christian schools and had worked as an intern at a Christian charity - was deported for security reasons, not for her journalism work.

    In September Boersma wrote an article for the Dutch national daily Trouw about northwest Syria's Afrin region, where Turkey has launched cross-border military operations to drive out the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization.

    The Financieele Dagblad (FD) newspaper, one of several publications for which Boersma wrote, called her expulsion a "flagrant violation of press freedom".

    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."

    Terrorism-related investigations in Turkey often cite alleged links to Kurdish militants or the network of a U.S.-based Islamic preacher accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in 2016.

    Boersma began working as a correspondent in Turkey in 2017 and had previously been a journalism teacher. Her LinkedIn page said she received a bachelors degree in journalism and a masters in anthropology at Amsterdam's VU University.

    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. 

    REUTERS