Former Dutch MEP says denied entry to Turkey

Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish authorities blocked from entering the country a Dutch former member of the European Parliament who used to write columns for a newspaper close to the alleged mastermind of the July 15 failed putsch, he said Monday.

Joost Lagendijk was briefly held by Turkish authorities at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport on the Asian side of the city on Sunday and was being sent back to the Netherlands on Monday.

“Turk(ish) authorities stopped me on my return from Neth(erlands) at Sabiha Gokcen airport. I am not allowed in,” Lagendijk wrote on his official Twitter account.

It was not immediately clear why Lagendijk, who is married to a Turkish journalist, was banned from entering Turkey.

But he was a former columnist for English-language Today’s Zaman newspaper which was taken over by the authorities and subsequently shut down over links to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is blamed by Ankara for attempting to stage the putsch and the authorities have since embarked on a relentless purge to eradicate all trace of his influence from Turkish life.

He had served as an MEP for the Dutch GroenLinks party from 1999-2009 before moving to Turkey. In Istanbul, Lagendijk had also worked as a university lecturer.

Lagendijk wrote on Twitter he was told to apply for a “special visa” at the Turkish embassy in the Netherlands.

“Hope it is only a bureaucratic obstacle and not a decision to block me forever,” he wrote.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter she saw the former MEP at the Istanbul airport, urging the Turkish government to end the ban.

She said he was “one of most even-handed & balanced commentators on Turkey” adding that the entry ban was “scandalous”.