After a spying scandal involving Religious Affairs Turkish-Islamic Union (DİTİB), Erdoğanist Turkish imams working in mosques, schools and prisons in Germany have refused security checks and quit their jobs, reported pro-Kurdish media on Thursday.
According to report, when a children’s comic glorifying ‘martyrdom’ was published by the DİTİB in the summer of 2016, the then Justice Minister of Germany, Thomas Kutschaty had issued an order for security check for all imams working in government institutions. The security checks tightened after several Turkish imams were prosecuted for being a Turkish spy and collecting information about German citizens and institutions.
According to the data provided by Germany’s North Rheine Westphalia (NRW) government after the introduction of the obligatory security check for imams working in prisons, most of the imams have quit their jobs.
NRW Justice Minister Peter Biesenbach said in the Legal Affairs Committee of the Dusseldorf State Parliament on Wednesday that currently 25 Muslim imams are serving in NRW and conducting the traditional Friday prayer sermons in the prisons. However, 2 years ago, there were 117 imams in NRW. Of the currently available 25 imams in NRW only 4 are in connection with DİTİB and after extensive security checks they have been given permission to work as an imam.
It was reported that most of the imams have refused the obligatory security checks, preferred to quit their jobs and returned to Turkey. And it was also claimed that almost all of these imams have been working for DİTİB.
Meanwhile, another German state Rheinland Pfalz has declared that imams working for DİTİB will not be allowed to serve in prisons.
16 Turkish imams were accused of spying for the Turkish government on Gülen movement followers in Germany on May 2017. Ten imams who work for DİTİB had fled the country to avoid legal proceedings. A total of 20 Turkish citizens have been facing an investigation on charges of spying on followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, according to a report in the German Die Welt daily in April.
Tensions rose between Turkey and Germany over operations against DİTİB imams who were claimed to be spying on people affiliated with the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, an accusation strongly denied by the movement.
In February, the coordinator of DİTİB, Murat Kayman, announced his resignation over the allegations. In the same month, German police teams raided the apartments of four DİTİB imams in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate who were suspected of acting as informants.
The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said in a statement that the imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20, 2016 by the directorate to profile Gülen movement sympathizers. In March, GBA launched an investigation into Halife Keskin, the foreign relations general manager of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), over his order to Turkey’s diplomatic missions and imams to gather information on people sympathetic to the Gülen movement.
It was also leaked to the public that not only imams but also members of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had been surveilling members of the Gülen movement in Germany. The German Interior Ministry in March launched an investigation into whether MİT has been spying on suspected supporters of the Gülen movement in Germany.
Speaking in Passau in southern Germany in March, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said it was a “criminal offense” to carry out espionage activities on German soil and that they “will not be tolerated by us.” “That applies to all foreign states and all intelligence services,” he added.
“We have repeatedly told Turkey that something like this is unacceptable. No matter what position someone may have on the Gülen movement, here German jurisdiction applies and citizens will not be spied on by foreign countries,” he said.