Basel police officer from Turkish origin arrested for spying for Erdoğan

Swiss police has arrested a Basel-based traffic police on suspicion of spying for Turkish officials, reported by Basler Zeitung newspaper on Friday. According to the report, the arrested officer was passing on relevant information gathered during interviews to the Turkish government. Report suggests that the officer had been accessing websites supportive of the Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The police are not releasing details of the officer’s nationality. However many social media accounts have claimed that the spying police officer is from Turkish origin. The 37-year-old police officer, identified with initials Y.S. by local media, extracted personal data of a Turkish expat in the Swiss city of Basler from the police database.

Basel is one of the few Swiss cantons that allow non-Swiss nationals to become police officers. Over 3 percent of the population of Basel-City are Turkish. The Basler resident of Turkish descent is a strong opponent of Erdoğan and he had earlier avoided to disclose his address and other related data during a Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) meeting.

UETD is a partisan organization for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Europe. Y.S., also an UETD member, forwarded all the data he illegally obtained from the police database to the UETD office in Zurich, which they then transmitted to a Turkish consulate, the local newspaper said quoting anonymous sources from within UETD.

“If personal data of a Basler citizen had been passed on to the Turkish consulate via UETD, the criminal code is a political espionage, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to three years,” the newspaper underscored.

It is not the first time that UETD members are involved in pressure against Erdoğan critics abroad. “You are going to be arrested, but your wife will be arrested too,” UETD Chairman Özer Eken told a Turkish expat in Sweden before asking him to spy on critics of the Turkish government in the Baltic country. According to a tape recording the Stockholm-based Radio Sweden obtained, Eken tries to force an alleged supporter of the Gülen movement into providing information on his comrades.

Tuba Sarıaltın, former deputy head of UETD’s women’s branches in Germany’s Bavaria region, who also works voluntarily for a refugee foundation, has been proven to be collecting intelligence about Turkish families seeking asylum in Germany in order to report them to Turkish authorities, according to her Twitter posts.

Turkey had found itself in a diplomatic tug-of-war with European countries over allegations of political espionage against Turkish citizens, opponents of President Erdoğan, living in Europe before the constitutional referendum at home.

In February, the German police raided apartments of 4 Turkish imams in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate over charges of spying for the Turkish government. Also, the Swiss prosecutors started an investigation after they said they had concrete indications over political espionage. It came a day after warning from Swiss foreign minister to his Turkish counterpart that the Swiss authorities would probe any illegal intelligence activities in their country.

The Swiss investigation follows alleged political intelligence gathering in which participants at events at the University of Zurich in late 2016 and early 2017 were filmed or photographed.

Switzerland, home to more than 70,000 Turkish nationals. But allegations of spying against Erdoğan’s critics came to surface on March prompting Swiss lawmakers to call for thorough investigations into activities of pro-Erdoğan organizations in the country.

The office of Swiss attorney general said in a written statement that it “has been made aware of concrete suspicion that political espionage has likely been conducted involving the Turkish community in Switzerland.” The Turkish foreign ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador in Ankara to convey Turkey’s dismay over an anti-Erdoğan protest in Bern.

April 28, 2017

 

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