AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Turkey has summoned home a senior diplomat who was accused of compiling a list of Dutch Turks who might have sympathised with July’s failed coup, the Dutch government said on Wednesday.
Yusuf Acar had been religious affairs attache at Turkey’s embassy and the head of the Dutch arm of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, a situation ministers said could amount to an unacceptable mingling of politics and religion.
The development comes amid heightened concern at what Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders has termed the “long-arm” activities of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian government.
Acar told a Dutch newspaper last week that he had compiled a list of “Gulenists” in the Netherlands. In a letter to parliament, ministers said Ankara had withdrawn the diplomat after receiving a protest from The Hague.
Ankara accuses supporters of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen of backing the short-lived coup in which over 240 were killed.
Acar’s information-gathering was “undesired and unacceptable interference in the lives of Dutch citizens”, foreign minister Koenders and social affairs minister Lodwewijk Asscher wrote in their joint letter to parliament.
In Turkey, over 100,000 people have been detained, suspended or sacked in the aftermath of the coup and tensions have spread within the 500,000-strong Dutch-Turkish community, with some suspected Gulenist sympathizers facing death threats.
In a sign of widespread concern at Ankara’s intelligence activities in Europe, a Turkish man was arrested in Hamburg last week on suspicion of spying on Kurds for Turkey. Ankara accuses Berlin of harbouring Kurdish separatist militants.
Reporting By Thomas Escritt