Dutch Reporter, Deported by Turkey for Alleged Terror Ties, Appeals Ruling

Lawyers for Dutch reporter Ans Boersma are appealing to a court in Istanbul to drop the deportation order against her and lift the six-year re-entry ban that prevents her from traveling to Turkey.

Boersma, 31, was deported from Turkey in January for alleged ties to a suspected terrorist.

"My client has been a resident of Turkey for a long time, and her deportation is unlawful. No legal justification was presented neither to our client, nor to us for her deportation," Veysel Ok, Boersma's defense lawyer and co-director of the Media and Law Studies Association, said in a recent statement.

"We are planning to take this case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as an urgent application if we cannot get a favorable result from this case in the short term," Ok added.

Boersma, a freelance reporter who worked for the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad, was detained by Turkish authorities last month for what they described as "security reasons." She was applying for an extension of her Turkish residence permit, but was deported from the country and banned from entering it for the next six years.

Turkey's account

At first, Boersma's arrest and deportation sparked criticism and an outcry from several Turkish rights and media groups, who saw the move as an attack on media freedom in Turkey.

"Dutch journo Ans Boersma, whom MLSA (Media and Law Studies Association) lawyers are assisting, was deported by Turkish authorities this morning. We will be filing necessary petitions and appeals on her unlawful deportation," MLSA tweeted following Boersma's deportation.

Fahrettin Altun, director of communications for Turkey's presidential office, said in a statement that Boersma's deportation was not related to her journalistic activities. Authorities took action against her, he said, after they received intelligence from Dutch government sources that she was suspected of having ties to al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, a U.S.- and EU-designated terror group that changed its name to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

"If a credible foreign government agency tells you that one of their citizens has links to terrorism, you don't take any chances. The Dutch authorities alone are in a position to explain why they arrived at that conclusion. We won't speculate on the credibility of their intelligence," Altun tweeted.

Dutch reaction

Dutch authorities deny that Boersma was deported at their request.

The Dutch National Public Prosecutor's Office said Boersma is a suspect in an ongoing criminal investigation but is not suspected of terrorism.

On Jan. 17, Boersma told Het Financieele Dagblad that her deportation might be related to her previous relationship with a Syrian national who was arrested in the Netherlands last fall for his alleged former membership in Jabhat al-Nusra.

Boersma said her relationship with the Syrian national ended in the summer of 2015, before she started working for Het Financieele Dagblad.

Forgery charges

Last month, Nieuwsuur, a Dutch current affairs TV program, reported that Boersma was suspected of forgery in relation to documents her Syrian ex-boyfriend had when he applied for a visa, which eventually allowed him to obtain a temporary residence permit in the Netherlands.

Boersma denied the forgery charges.

Nieuwsuur quoted several sources who alleged that Boersma's ex-boyfriend is the same alleged jihadist who was spotted at the screening ceremony of a Syrian documentary, City of Ghosts, by a Syrian activist in September 2017 in Amsterdam.

Ex-boyfriend

The Syrian national goes by the nickname Aziz. In December 2017, he told Nieuwsuur he feared for his life because he was a target of the Syrian regime.

Aziz said he was incarcerated for six years in Sednaya Prison � which he described as "the worst prison in the world" � for reading anti-government books that were forbidden in Syria.

Aziz said that he was released in 2011 after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pardoned prisoners. When the civil war in Syria started, Aziz said he joined the rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, and later bribed someone to forge a new passport with a different name.

Arrest

In October 2018, the Dutch police arrested Aziz and his brother on suspicion of terrorism.

According to the statement from the Dutch police, Aziz was an active member of Jabhat al-Nusra before his arrival in the Netherlands.

"The suspect is from Raqqa, and he participated in the armed struggle in Syria. In the criminal investigation, it emerged that he had carried out combat actions for Jabhat al-Nusra and may have been involved in attacks in Syria. There would have been many fatalities," the Dutch public prosecutor's office said in a 2018 statement.

Boersma told Dutch newspaper Trouw late last month that Aziz was part of al-Nusra when it was not considered a terrorist organization.

"Al-Nusra was labeled a terrorist organization in December 2012, in which month my ex-boyfriend left the group. And he was always absolutely against the Islamic State," she said.

"His struggle was not about establishing an Islamic State but was directed against the dictator Assad. He always told me that he has no blood on his hands and never committed human rights violations," Boersma added.

Source: Voice of America