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Friday, May 24, 2024

Dutch PM sides with anti-Islam MP in spat with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Erdogan filed a complaint this week against outspoken far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who had shared a controversial cartoon of the Turkish president

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday weighed in a growing spat between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a Dutch anti-Islam MP, whom the Turkish leader has accused of defamation over a cartoon drawing.

Erdogan filed a complaint this week against outspoken far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who shared a cartoon of the Turkish president wearing an Ottoman hat shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse on Twitter.

Turkish state agency Anadolu said Erdogan brought a defamation complaint before state prosecutors in Ankara against Wilders, who also tweeted the word “Terrorist” with the cartoon.

Read more: ‘Do not mess with Turkey’: Turkish President Erdogan takes on France’s Macron

“I have a message for President Erdogan and that message is simple: In the Netherlands freedom of expression is one of our highest values,” Rutte said.

“This includes (being able to publish) cartoons, including of politicians,” he told the NOS public broadcaster.

“To lay a complaint against a Dutch politician which could lead to restricting his freedom of expression is unacceptable,” Rutte said.

Rutte said he was “speaking directly to the Turkish president” but that the Dutch objection will also be voiced through other diplomatic channels.

Rutte was one of the first European leaders to support French President Emmanuel Macron, whom Erdogan has targeted in a series of personal attacks and asked for a boycott of French products.

The call comes after Macron hardened his stance against Muslim extremists and robustly defended the right to mock religion, following the murder of a French schoolteacher who had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Caricatures of Mohammed are strictly forbidden by Islam. The complaint against Wilders “went beyond all limits,” Rutte said.

Read more: #BoycottFrenchProducts: What does Pakistan import from France? The answers are worrying

Relations between the Netherlands and Turkey have remained strained since the Dutch government in 2017 refused to allow two Turkish ministers to campaign for Erdogan among Dutch citizens of Turkish descent.

That decision, days before Dutch parliamentary elections were to be held in the Netherlands, angered the Turkish community who rioted in Rotterdam in streets around the Turkish consulate. There are some 400,000 Dutch citizens with a Turkish background in the Netherlands.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk