Turkey recalls religious leader from Netherlands

Dutch FM calls cleric's actions 'undesirable and unacceptable form of interference'

ANKARA - Turkey has recalled the head of a key religious organisation in The Netherlands after he informed Ankara about Dutch citizens believed to oppose the Turkish government, the Dutch foreign ministry said Wednesday.
Handing over such information "is an undesirable and unacceptable form of interference in the lives of Dutch citizens by a diplomatic representative," Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said in a letter to parliament.
According to Dutch media, Yusuf Acar, the representative there for Turkey's powerful Diyanet religious affairs directorate and a member of embassy staff, had been gathering information on suspected sympathisers of the alleged mastermind of Turkey's failed July coup.
The Netherlands has a large community of citizens with Turkish roots. And last week Acar was quoted by the daily De Telegraaf saying he had indeed collected information, but denied spying on people.
"I drew up a list based on information available on the internet," he said.
Following the revelations, Koenders said in his letter he had summoned the Turkish ambassador for talks and they reached "a mutual agreement to withdraw" Acar from The Netherlands.
Since the failed coup, Ankara has stepped up pressure on alleged supporters of US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen accusing him of masterminding the bid to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
An anti-Gulen crackdown targeting the army, justice officials, the media and teachers as well as the presidential guard has seen 35,000 people arrested and 76,000 fired from their jobs. The scale of the crackdown has triggered international concern.
The coup also created tensions in the Turkish community in The Netherlands, prompting the Dutch government to call for calm.
The Diyanet, which is directly linked to the prime minister's office, was established in 1924 to control religion in officially secular modern Turkey.
It has a budget larger than many ministries and takes care of close to 80,000 mosques in the predominantly Muslim country. But it has been criticised for treating non-Muslims and Shiites differently from Sunnis.