Dutch government faces outcry over reported support for Syrian rebels
The Dutch government faced a storm of protest from lawmakers on Monday after a news report said it supported a Syrian opposition group which Dutch prosecutors had labelled a “terrorist” organisation.
Parliamentarians demanded answers after the report aired by the national public broadcaster said the Netherlands gave “non-lethal assistance” (NLA) to 22 armed opposition groups battling Syrian government forces.
The television programme, which worked together with the respected Trouw newspaper, identified one group as Jabhat al-Shamiya, which it said had been supplied with pick-up trucks, uniforms and other equipment last year.
But at the same time, Dutch officials in the port city of Rotterdam were prosecuting a suspected militant for belonging to Jabhat al-Shamiya, which they labelled in court papers as a “Salafist and jihadist movement striving for a caliphate”.
It was nothing more than a “criminal organisation with a terrorist aim”, the prosecutors added in the court papers.
Jabhat al-Shamiya, also known as the Levant Front, is an umbrella group for Turkey-backed rebel fighters based in northern Syria. In 2016, Amnesty International accused it of carrying out summary executions and establishing courts that enforce a strict Islamic-based penal code.
Monday’s revelations come days after Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok’s announcement that the government was cutting all support to “moderate” opposition groups.