Turkish Intelligence in Germany, Imams Serve as Informers
The German TV channel “ZDF” produced a documentary about Turkish intelligence espionage against Turkish and Kurdish opponents and critics in Germany. The Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs in Germany Ditib is conducting these operations on behalf of the Turkish Intelligence Agency M.I.T.
According to the documentary, the Turkish intelligence agency relies mainly on Turkish mosques operating under the supervision of Ditib, which is the largest religious organization, as it operates more than 900 mosques all over Germany.
In its documentary, titled “How Erdogan’s critics are exposed to espionage in Germany”, the German TV channel interviewed some Turkish opponents who fled to Germany after the failed coup d’etat in 2016. They confirmed that they received direct threats from the imams of Ditib because of their Erdogan and AKP government criticism.
In an interview with the channel, Elinal Ozil, a young Turkish man who sought refuge in Germany after the coup attempt for fear of arbitrary arrest because of his political activities, said he was threatened by Erdogan’s supporters in Germany.
Ozil lives in a small town near the German city of Kassel. He used to visit the nearby mosque to pray, until the Imam threatened him after knowing that he belonged to a group that opposes Erdogan.
Ozel noted that he was not expecting to feel fear again after he left Turkey for Germany, especially as he was hoping for a new life full of security and stability in his new country.
Espionage Includes German Political Figures
Espionage is not limited to opponents and critics who fled from Erdogan to Germany. It also includes German political figures and parliamentarians of Turkish and Kurdish origin.
Speaking to the TV channel, Sevim Dagdelen MP, deputy chairwoman of „Die Linke“ parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, confirms that she is afraid of espionage operations run by Erdogan and the Turkish intelligence agency against anyone criticizing his policies abroad.
Dagdelen, who has been living under protection of the German police, says that the German government bears a large part of the responsibility for the violations and spying operations run by Turkey because of its encouraging policies towards Erdogan who runs the state with the mind of a mafia gang head.
The Imams are Informers
Imams at Ditib mosques collect information about opponents and their whereabouts. The information is sent regularly to the Turkish embassy and consulates in German cities, which in turn send the information to the Turkish intelligence.
Reports of Turkish spying, as well death and kidnapping threats made against opponents of Erdogan and his government, have previously been published. However, the German judicial authorities have not moved against them under pretext that there is not enough evidence.
But German politicians and opponents of the Turkish government attribute the German government’s inaction to the strong economic and military ties that bind both countries.
Turkish intelligence operates without being watched by bodies of the German government, where the reports go directly to the Turkish President.
Since the failed coup attempt, Erdogan’s government has increased the prosecution of opponents in Turkey and abroad. Some of Erdogan’s opponents were kidnapped in other countries by members of Turkish intelligence.
Turkey’s intelligence agency has dozens of agents officially in Germany, but the real number is almost 8,000 of people who work on monitoring the opponents and collecting information, and then sending the information to the Turkish embassy and consulates according to the German channel.
Applications on Smart Phones for Spying
In order to speed up and facilitate reporting and spying on opponents and critics of Erdogan, Turkey’s intelligence agency has developed a phone application called EGM (Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü, translated General Directorate of Security).
Through this app, any Turkish citizen living abroad can report his neighbors or friends – regardless of their nationality, whether Turkish of German – when criticizing Erdogan and his government. The app is still available in Google’s appstore
The app, which according to Google is already installed on more than 500,000 smartphones, does not only offer harmless traffic information, but also a tool that is particularly valued by many users, at the same time sharply criticized by others: Here, a user can report terrorists – or what he thinks they are. Ömer G., for example, appreciates this function in a comment on the App Store and is writing on July 7: “Report everyone who has something to do with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).“
The Turkish security forces, in turn, archive the reports and issue arrest warrants against reported people and send their names to border crossings and airports with the aim of arresting them, as soon as they enter Turkish territory.
A report of the German Tagesschau website confirms that Turkish authorities arrest anyone who likes any post that criticizes Erdogan or his ruling party, charging him of insulting the head of state.
In a report published on June 11, the website reported on the arrest of Nabahat Yildirim, a German citizen, who only holds German citizenship. She was arrested because she liked a post criticizing the Turkish President. The report says that the German Foreign Ministry is fully aware of the detention’s details and is working through consulates and the embassy in Turkey to help her.
The German Federal Foreign Ministry explicitly warns citizens regarding travels to Turkey: “Be aware that statements critical to the Turkish government on social media, even if they are old posts, but also sharing posts or liking foreign news and reports links, may expose you to detention by the Turkish security authorities.”
Turkish Intelligence, Violation for German Security
The accusation that Ditib is spying on behalf of Turkish intelligence and President Erdogan is not new, especially since Ditib has admitted that Imams in its mosques have already gathered information about members of the Gulen movement and had sent it to Turkish intelligence in Ankara.
At the beginning of 2017, the General Secretary of Ditib, Bekir Alboga, formally apologized, saying: “We deeply regret this glitch.”
This official apology did not deter the organization and its Imams from continuing to spy on opponents and critics, especially since the information gathering operations have gradually increased and became more public, as Erdogan’s government admitted in 2017 that it had received information about 19 people living in Germany would be associated with the Gulen movement.
The connection between Ditib and the Turkish regime provoked the German secret service of the interior (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) to classify the organization as an extreme nationalist religious organization that is working against the German democratic system.
The relationship between the German government and Ditib has deteriorated for years, as it transformed from a partner in terms of integrating immigrants and refugees to a suspicious organization running spying operations and inciting Turkish citizens to take action against people opposed to Erdogan.
In 2018, the financial support received by Ditib from the German government was reduced to 297,000 Euros, compared to 1.5 million Euros in 2017, because of the uncertainties surrounding it.
About three million people with Turkish nationalitiy live in Germany, including many opponents and critics of Turkish President Erdogan. The number is increasing on a daily basis due to the deteriorating conditions in Turkey and the continuous escape of hundreds of people to Western European countries, especially Germany.
Asylum applications submitted by Turkish citizens have remarkably increased since the coup attempt in 2016, according to data of the Federal Office for Immigration.