German federal prosecutors said Friday they were investigating a Turkish national on suspicion of spying on dissidents for Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Agence France-Presse reported.
The suspect, identified as Ali D., was arrested in a Düsseldorf hotel on September 17 after an employee noticed a weapon on him, prosecutors said in a statement. A list of names of some Gülen movement followers was also seized in Ali D.’s hotel room, which included additional information on each person, according to a Der Spiegel report back then.
German prosecutors said there were indications that Ali D. was collecting information on supporters of the Gülen movement living in and around the city of Cologne “in order to pass it on to the Turkish MIT intelligence service.”
The US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen is a longtime foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Ali D. also stands accused of a weapons violation after a police search of his hotel room turned up 200 rounds of ammunition, prosecutors added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
According to German newspaper Tagesspiegel, local authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia state, home to the cities of Düsseldorf and Cologne, believe it’s possible an attack was being planned on Gülen supporters.
Federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation from the Düsseldorf prosecution office, as is standard procedure in cases of suspected foreign agent activity.
In July a pro-government social media account named “Jitemkurt” published a list of Turkish journalists living in Europe and North America whom they planned to assassinate.
The account published the names of 21 journalists resident in various countries and threatened to kill them. The name of the social media account refers to a group linked to the notorious gendarmerie intelligence unit JITEM.
Later, another hit list emerged that included the names of 55 critics of the Turkish government who were living in exile. Politicians and artists were included on the new list in addition to journalists.
Since 2016, Turkey has arrested tens of thousands of people suspected to have links to the Gülen movement.
In order to avoid the government-led crackdown, thousands of Gülen followers have fled Turkey and taken refuge in European and other countries.
For years, Turkey has repeatedly urged the German authorities to take action against Gülen supporters who sought asylum in the country.