The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered a criminal gang in Denmark to assassinate alleged members of the Gülen movement, according to a report by Sweden’s public radio, Sveriges Radio, on Wednesday.
According to the report based on extensive research conducted by journalists Daniel Öhman and Beşir Kavak for one and a half years, the gang enjoys close relations with prominent politicians in Turkey.
After having talks with many sources in various segments of society and in several countries, Öhman and Kavak kept the names of the victims anonymous despite the fact that they were able to confirm their identities.
According to the report, in the beginning of 2017 the Danish Security Service (PET) had received information about the planned political murder of individuals in Denmark who oppose the Turkish government led by Erdoğan. PET acted on the information and put the would-be targets in safety.
“One evening in January 2017, two plainclothes policemen appeared at the doorstep of the home of one of the targets of the suspected murder plot. We can call him Mehmet,” wrote Sveriges Radio. “They were dressed in civilian clothes but showed credentials from the Danish security service PET,” said Mehmet.
Outside in the street, several cars had appeared. “They said they had information that I was to be assassinated the coming weekend and that they had to take me to a sheltered place… I asked if they were joking, but they said the situation was too serious to make jokes about,” he said.
The report said Mehmet, who is of Turkish origin but lives in Denmark, is a supporter of the Gülen movement. He was one of the suspected targets of the Turkish murder plot that PET had information on.
“If the information to the PET was to be believed, Turkey had now turned its eye on Denmark where a criminal gang was said to have been ordered to carry out the murders. The gang was said to enjoy close relations with prominent politicians in Turkey,” wrote Svreiges Radio.
“If this would be true, that Turkey is carrying out this kind operation, that would be very serious,” Paul Levin, the founding director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, told Sveriges Radio after reading the report.
“For the Danish security service PET, the intel that Turkey planned a political murder in Denmark must have been most unwelcome. In many ways. If it should leak to the public, it might very well provoke a diplomatic crisis between Denmark and Turkey, which both the PET and the Danish government certainly wanted to avoid,” the report said and added: “The Danish Security Service PET is dependent on cooperation with its Turkish counterpart, not least in terms of information exchange about possible Danish ISIL terrorists who have been travelling back and forward to Syria through Turkey. The official Turkish reaction following a disclosure could also be very unpleasant.”
“It’s easy to imagine that Danish policymakers would be afraid of something like this and that they are aware of possible diplomatic consequences given the fact that Turkey has a tradition to act pretty strongly,” said Levin.
According to the report, PET would in other words have to handle the new situation as discretely as possible. “But one day in the beginning of January 2017 something happened that forced PET to act: They received information that a murder was to take place already the following weekend. Various sources confirm that the decision to protect Mehmet was taken at high level within PET. That’s why two PET agents stood waiting as Mehmet and his family scrambled to get ready to leave their home.”
“It took the family a few minutes to assemble their clothes. They had to leave phones, computers and mobile phones at home. Then they were quickly brought into a car that took them from there,” Mehmet said, adding, “They did not drive straight to where we would stay overnight but took detours in order to make sure we were not followed.”
Eventually they arrived at a hotel. Everything had been arranged, and they could go straight up into the room. “We were told not to use our credit cards or go online. We received some cash and an old Nokia phone.”
He wasn’t told who exactly was supposed to have ordered his murder, just that the order had come from Turkey and that it was politically motivated, but he suspected that the Turkish national intelligence service MİT must be involved. Why else would he have to leave credit cards behind? Who else would have the ability, to trace credit card payments or bank transactions?
The report by the Sveriges Radio continued as follows:
“The PET-agents also seemed to be very irritated over the indication that Turkey planned political assassinations in Denmark.
“No country may come to us and disturb our citizens here. This is not a banana republic where you can come to act as you want “, they said, according to Mehmet.
For Mehmet, this was a new situation. He was certainly used to receiving threats. Not least on social media. He had even gone to the police to report the threats. But the police had never taken them seriously before, he said.
After a couple of days, it was decided that the hotel was not safe enough so the family was moved to a summer house in a rural area. Two security guards were staying nearby, and Mehmet got an emergency number he could call if anything should happen.
Meanwhile, the Security Service continued to try to solve the situation without triggering a diplomatic crisis.
According to information gathered by Radio Sweden it was made clear to those suspected to be part of the murder-plot that the authorities had found out what they were planning to do.
“After a bit over 10 days, they say that the threat was gone. That I could return to my usual life. I asked how it has ended, but they did not want to comment on it. They also mentioned that they would close this case.”
We do not have the whole picture on why and how the threat disappeared. It is unclear if any formal investigation was initiated.
Were the people suspected to be planning the murder sent out of the country? Was anyone arrested? Did the Danish government contact the Turkish government? Or did PET talk to its Turkish Counterpart MİT, who took back the suspected assassination order?
We don’t know.
Whatever the full picture, it seemed to have worked out fine for Mehmet. Since he came back home from the safe house, the threats he used to receive in social media, not least from different fake profiles; he believes to be connected to the Turkish intelligence service, have become fewer and milder.
On the other hand, he says that the Danish Security Service asked him to keep a lower profile.
Once home, Mehmet claims he found out he was not the only one who was put in a safe house. At least two other people living in Denmark with connections to the Gülen movement were also apprehended and protected by the PET around the same time, according to Mehmet.
We have been able to verify, that the threat did concern more people than Mehmet, and that more people were contacted by PET, but we don’t know the total number of people who were put under protection by the PET.
One of those who discovered that Mehmet disappeared was his friend, we can call him Ali. Ali and his wife became worried when they could not get to Mehmet and his family. They even went to his house and knocked on the door, he said.
“After all previous threats to him, we were very worried”, he said.
When no one opened the door, they decided to go to the police.
“They did not want to help us at first, saying we would have to wait at least 24 hours. But we insisted. We refused to leave. The police asked us to wait.”
After scarcely two hours, an older police came down, Ali said.
“He was not formally dressed like the others. Just had a shirt and no weapon or so.”
According to Ali the policeman told them they did not have to be worried. He told them the police knew where Mehmet was and could reach him, without giving any further details.
Mehmet is still in contact with the authorities. He claims that he recently spoke with his contacts there who advised him not to disclose openly what had happened. He has therefore chosen to be anonymous in this report.
This is not the first time Turkey is accused of unorthodox operations abroad. It is known that Turkey has used considerable resources to trace and arrest followers of the Gülen movement, and other people such as Kurds and Armenians who oppose the Turkish government, both within and outside the country’s borders. But normally this is done in collaboration with foreign security services in countries that Turkey has a friendly relationship to.
“So far, MİT (Turkish National Intelligence Organisation) has wrapped up 80 FETÖ members from 18 different countries and taken to Turkey, said Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ to the CNRHABER channel in April 2018. He continued:
“Our intelligence, our security forces, the Turkish state and our government pursue them wherever in the world they are. Our forces find them in their rat holes, they take them to Turkey and hand them over to Turkish courts.”
In countries like Denmark, these types of “wrap up”- operations are impossible to execute. Here, the Gülen movement is not considered to be a terrorist organization. Instead it is considered a legitimate international religious organization, primarily engaged in the school sector.
On top of that, the legal system in Turkey is perceived to be corrupted by political influence. Journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists are jailed on speculative charges and there are many credible stories about torture. So, it would be very hard to get the Danish authorities to hand over Gülen supporters, to Turkey. It seems, if the information received by the PET was correct that in Denmark more drastic methods was needed.
This also seems to have been the case in other countries in Western Europe such as Switzerland and Germany according to media reports. In Germany, a person who claimed that he was working on behalf of the Turkish National intelligence Service MİT confessed that he was part of a murder plot, which never got staged, against three Kurds.
A German football player with Kurdish root got shot at after posting what Turkey judged to be Kurdish propaganda on social media.German media also disclosed how a criminal gang in Germany was ordered by an AKP member to assault Kurds, and other people critical of the Turkish government in Germany.
And in Switzerland, a conspiracy was recently revealed, in which MİT, in cooperation with people of the Turkish embassy and a “consultant”, planned to sedate a businessman connected to the Gülen movement and kidnap him back to Turkey. However, the Swiss security service discovered the plot and could abort the operation.
Sveriges Radio has worked together with Danmarks Radio on some parts of this investigation.
We have asked the PET, the Danish minister of Justice, and the Danish minister of foreign affairs, for interviews. The have all said they do not wish to comment after hearing about what we are about to publish.
We have also asked the Turkish embassy for an interview they have not returned.”
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with 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 them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.