Erdoğan critics profiled by Turkish Embassy in Colombia, document reveals

Critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who had been profiled by the Turkish Embassy in Bogotá were included in a terrorism probe based on fabricated charges by a Turkish prosecutor, judicial documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.

The judicial documents indicate that the Turkish Embassy gathered information on Turkish citizens believed to be affiliated with the Gülen movement, a group critical of President Erdoğan, and that Turkish educators, representatives of local associations and businessmen living in Colombia had been profiled by Turkish diplomats. The information that was reported to the foreign ministry in Ankara was later used in a criminal indictment for a charge of terrorism by a Turkish prosecutor.

Judicial documents dated December 21, 2018 reveal spying on critics in Colombia by the Turkish diplomatic missions. (The addresses and names of the Turkish nationals have been redacted for security reasons.):

According to a December 21, 2018 decision by prosecutor Adem Akıncı, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation (file no. 2018/ 28445) into four Turkish nationals in Colombia who were listed in espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats in the country without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing.

According to the documents they were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Akıncı. The investigation was based on spying files created at the Turkish Embassy in Bogotá between 2016 and 2018.

The profiling files were conveyed to the foreign ministry by the Turkish ambassadors Engin Yürür (2013-2017) and Ece Öztürk (2017-present).

Critics of the Erdoğan government abroad, especially members of the Hizmet/Gülen movement, have been facing surveillance, harassment, death threats and abduction since President Erdoğan decided to scapegoat the group for his own legal troubles. They have often been denied consular services such as power of attorney and birth registry as well as having their passports revoked. Their assets in Turkey are seized and their family members at home are at risk of criminal charges.

Educator Orhan İnandı, who was included in documents previously published by Nordic Monitor, was kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan on May 31 and illegally brought to Turkey by Turkish intelligence agency MIT. İnandı, who had lived in Kyrgyzstan for nearly 30 years, was arrested last week on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

As previously disclosed by Nordic Monitor, the foreign ministry sent lists of profiled Turkish nationals in two CDs to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the national police and Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT on February 19, 2018 via an official document for further administrative or legal action, the punishment of their relatives back in Turkey and the seizure of their assets.

Public prosecutor Akıncı, who received the foreign ministry document on February 23, 2018, forwarded the classified CDs including information on 4,386 Erdoğan critics to the organized crime unit of the Ankara Police Department for further action. The police conveyed the results of its investigations to the public prosecutor.

Akıncı, who led the investigation into the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in December 2016, was accused of suppressing the evidence that the killer had links to various jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and was radicalized by several pro-government imams, including two who worked for the government religious authority, the Diyanet. Nordic Monitor previously reported that several suspects told the court that Akıncı had forced them to testify during interrogation that the assassination was directed by the Gülen movement. They were later jailed after declining the prosecutor’s request to testify to that in court.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed systematic spying on Turkish government critics on foreign soil as by Turkish diplomatic missions in February, 2020. Çavuşoğlu said Turkish diplomats assigned to embassies and consulates have officially been instructed by the government to conduct such activities abroad. “If you look at the definition of a diplomat, it is clear. … Intelligence gathering is the duty of diplomats,” Çavuşoğlu told Turkish journalists on February 16, 2020 following the Munich Security Conference, adding, “Intelligence gathering and information collection are a fact.”

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