Turkey didn't properly tell NL when deporting Brussels bomber, says Justice Min.

Ibrahim El Bakraoui
Brussels bombing suspect Ibrahim El-Bakraoui. (Brussels bombing suspect Ibrahim El-Bakraoui)

Brussels bomber Ibrahim el Bakraoui was extradited from Turkey to the Netherlands in July last year, but the Netherlands did not know he was suspected of being a terrorist. The Turks did report El Bakraoui's flight, but only in an electronic note sent to the Dutch embassy, and not with the usual phone call, Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice wrote to Parliament on Thursday.

"It is clear that the Turkish authorities did not follow the usual way to inform us about the imminent deportation of this gentleman to the Netherlands", Van der Steur wrote. The electronic note did not contain any substantive information on the background of this case.

According to the Minister, when deporting someone it is usual for the Turkish police to call the Dutch authorities and inform them. That did not happen in this case, where it turned out to be very necessary. "We posed questions to Turkey on this matter, but have not received a reply."

El Bakraoui landed on Schiphol airport on July 14th last year. According to Van der Steur, at the time the Dutch authorities did not know of any reason to take action against him. The man was not known to the authorities as a jihad fighter. "He had a valid Belgian passport. He was not registered in the systems of Dutch or international investigation and intelligence services. The Interpol database did not know him."

According to Van der Steur, the Netherlands did made "no mistakes" in this matter. At the time there was "no suspicion" against El Bakraoui.

On Wednesday Turkish president  Recep Tayyip Erdogan embarrassed the Dutch and Belgian governments by stating that El Bakraoui was put on a plane to the Netherlands in July last year. He claimed that both countries were actively informed. But neither Van der Steur nor Dick Schoof, the National Coordinator of Counterterrorism and Security knew what he was talking about.

On Thursday the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens could not say whether Belgium was aware of the deportation, Trouw reports. "I'm not sure if Belgium was aware", he said. "At that time the person was not known to us for terrorism." Both Geens and Home Affairs Minister Jan Jambom offered to resign after Erdogan's statements, but Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel did not accept their resignations.