Turkey asks Dutch about Erdoğan cartoons, while Dutch asks Turkey about ‘insult email’

Turkey asks Dutch about Erdoğan cartoons, while Dutch asks Turkey about ‘insult email’

Emine Kart - ANKARA
Turkey asks Dutch about Erdoğan cartoons, while Dutch asks Turkey about ‘insult email’

AFP photo

The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassador of the Netherlands earlier this week in order to voice unease over cartoons depicting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while the Dutch ambassador used the opportunity to ask Turkish authorities to clarify a call made to Turks in the Netherlands to report individuals who insult Turkey or its president.

Dutch Ambassador Cornelis van Rij was actually summoned before a political storm erupted on April 21 after several Dutch newspapers reported an email apparently sent by the Turkish consulate to Turkish organizations in the Netherlands, asking people to forward disparaging emails and posts on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, Hürriyet Daily News learned from reliable sources on April 22.

Van Rij was at the Foreign Ministry headquarters on April 22, as he apparently used the occasion to express the Dutch government’s discomfort with the recent email incident. Turkish diplomatic sources in Ankara, approached by Hürriyet Daily News, declined to comment on the issue. Thus, it was not clear how much time the Erdoğan cartoons covered during Van Rij’s meeting with the Turkish Foreign Ministry officials. 

Meanwhile, a deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has asked Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to confirm claims that it was President Erdoğan who “personally” instructed Turkey’s missions abroad to report individuals who insult Turkey or its president.

The controversial email read: “To the relevant person, [w]e ask urgently for the names and written comments of people who have given derogatory, disparaging, hateful and defamatory statements against the Turkish president, Turkey and Turkish society in general, which have reached the members and relatives of your non-governmental organizations or fellow citizens from your surroundings via their social media addresses (such as Twitter or Facebook) or via the official address and e-mail addresses of your non-governmental organization, to be sent in before the close of business on 21 April 2016 by email to the consulate general in Rotterdam,” and was emailed from info.cgrotterdam@mfa.gov.tr.

Speaking at a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the southern city of Eindhoven on April 21, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte said he was surprised by the apparent plea to Turks living in the country to report insulting or negative comments about Erdoğan or Turkey to the country’s consulate in Rotterdam.

“I am surprised. It’s not clear what the Turkish government aims to achieve with this action,” Rutte told journalists. “Our ambassador in Ankara will ask for an explanation,” he said.

The Turkish Consulate General for its part has said the note was sent by a consular official who used an “unfortunate choice of words” that was misinterpreted. Dutch lawmakers were indignant following the reports, demanding a reaction from Rutte’s government on how it planned to deal with the issue.

The incident in the Netherlands follows outrage in Germany after the government there gave the green-light for authorities to begin criminal proceedings against popular comic Jan Boehmermann for performing a satirical poem about Erdoğan on television.

Boehmermann could be convicted under the rarely enforced section 103 of the criminal code - insulting representatives of foreign states. The Netherlands has a similar law, but Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur told lawmakers on April 20 that he wanted to scrap it.

Over the last century there have been few cases in which a Dutch person was convicted based on this law, Dutch news portal, NL Times, reported. In the 1930s, three Dutch were prosecuted for insulting Adolf Hitler and in 1966, an Amsterdam student was sentenced to two weeks in prison for insulting American president Lyndon Johnson, according to NL Times.