German federal police warn lawmakers of possible Turkish spying

German federal police have warned parliamentarians they may have been spied on by Turkish intelligence and may also face potential security risks from Turkish nationalists, Die Welt daily reported on Wednesday. The report could further strain already frayed ties between Germany and Turkey, which are at loggerheads over a wide range of issues.

“The Federal Criminal Police Office carried out so-called ‘security discussions’ with several members of parliament in recent weeks,” Die Welt reported. “The discussions reportedly centred on the possible surveillance of Turkish intelligence and security risks posed by Turkish nationalists,” it added.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for German Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere has said they have received from Ankara another list of people and companies allegedly affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, Deutsche Welle reported on Tuesday.

The report said German authorities warned people on the list provided by Turkey but did not employ any pressure on them. A similar list was previously given to the German government by Turkey in April, and German authorities had informed the relevant states and police units.

The Berlin Security Agency has reportedly had a 40-page list containing the names of 72 people and organizations since June 16.

The Interior Ministry spokesperson said they have been investigating whether the people listed are involved in espionage against Turkey, whether the accusations made by Turkey are justified and whether the people, companies and organizations listed pose a potential threat.

According to news published in the German media during the past few months, Turkey has provided a list of more than 300 people, 200 associations, schools and other institutions affiliated with Gülen movement.

Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan gave a list to Bruno Kahl, chief of the Federal Foreign Intelligence and Security Service (BND), during the Munich Security Conference in February. Kahl reportedly sent the list to the Federal Government, Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Federal Office for Security and police units in the various states.

Tensions have risen between Turkey and Germany over espionage operations in the recent past. Germany’s chief federal prosecutor in January launched an investigation into possible spying by clerics sent to Germany by the Turkish government, and in March opened a second, unrelated probe into suspected espionage. At the time, German media reports said the Turkish Intelligence Agency (MİT) was suspected of spying on supporters of US-based Turkish-Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.

German prosecutors have filed espionage charges against a Turkish national, identified as Mehmet Fatih Sayan, for spying on Kurdish expats at Turkey’s request. Federal prosecutors said that 32-year-old Mehmet Fatih Sayan. had worked for Turkish intelligence since 2013 and was tasked to spy on Kurdish people in 2015. Arrested in December 2016, Mehmet Fatih Sayan. received a total of 30,000 euros for his service, according to German prosecutors.

According to an April report in the German daily Die Welt, a total of 20 Turkish citizens are facing an investigation on charges of spying on followers of the faith-based Gülen movement.

Ties between NATO allies Ankara and Berlin have been strained since the failed coup in Turkey last year, but have worsened over multiple issues including the campaign for a Turkish referendum on major constitutional amendments that was held on April 16.

Other issues straining ties include the German parliament’s approval of a resolution describing the Ottoman Empire’s World War I-era massacre of Armenians as “genocide”, Berlin’s criticism of the Turkish government’s suspending of thousands of civil servants after the coup attempt, and Turkey’s jailing of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel.

Germany’s parliament this month approved the planned withdrawal of troops from the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey after Ankara’s refusal to allow German lawmakers access to German soldiers there. Turkey has also accused some German lawmakers of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a charge they reject.

German authorities have also signaled that they do not want the members of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s security detail who attacked protesters in Washington last month allowed into Germany for the G-20 summit in Hamburg on July 7-8, Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday.

According to the report the German foreign ministry has informed the Turkish side that the guards who are wanted by the US due to the attack on protesters in Washington should not come to Germany. On Wednesday the Hamburg police warned Turkish guards not to attack protesters during the G-20 summit.

Turkey survived a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13.

June 28, 2017

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