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Minister ‘relieved’ on arrest of sender of hate-mail

Zuhal Demir (N-VA). © Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga

Flemish minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) has said she is “relieved” at the arrest of a young man accused of sending her hate mail.

The man, aged 24 and living in Demir’s home town of Genk in Limburg province, has admitted sending the letter. In it, Demir re-stated the Flemish government’s position that they could only give official recognition to local religious communities if there was no foreign financing or any other way foreign governments could influence their activities.

Demir is not even in charge of the procedure of recognition, which is the responsibility of social affairs minister Bart Somers.

But she is of Kurdish background, born in Belgium to a couple of Turkish Kurds, who follow the Alevi strand of Islam, in contrast to the Diyanet strand followed by the majority of Turks. The Diyanet, or Directorate of Religious Affairs, is the dominant strand of Islam in Turkey, and was described by Demir as “The long arm of Erdoğan,” the country’s controversial president.

The sender of the mail ordered Demir to stop commenting on the matter or she would be raped. She complained to the police, and an investigation was started.

That led to the arrest. The man charged admitted sending the mail, and confessed he had done something wrong. The case will be handled by a court in Tongeren in January.

Demir declined to comment, other than to say “Now we have to let the courts do their job.”

A charge of offences against the law on electronic communications and written threats could carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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