It turns out that the alleged spying network that involved Turkish imams who were accused of profiling critics and opponents of Turkey’s president in Netherlands, Austria and Germany, which prompted investigations by authorities, has footprints in Nordic country, Norway, as well.
The Norwegian Islamist religious organizations that are affiliated with Turkish government and its Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) are reportedly involved in unlawful profiling activities of unsuspecting people of Turkish origin across Norway.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that Yusuf Yüksel, general secretary of Oslo-based Den Tyrkisk Islamske Union (Turkish Islamic Union), has publicly called for spying on members of Gulen movement, a civic based volunteer-driven organization that focuses on education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
In his message that was shared with a norsk-tyrkere (Norwegian Turks) on Facebook, Yüksel wrote that “Inform on FETO terrorists whom you know,” adding a link to his message that showed tip lines set up by the office of Erdogan in Turkish capital. The message was shared on July 31, 2016.
The Gülen movement is inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen who has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on corruption as well as Ankara’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. Erdogan launched a witch-hunt persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdogan’s family members.
Turkish president vowed to pursue members of Gülen movement abroad no matter where they are, shut down all institutions affiliated with the movement and jailed over 45,000 people in the last six months alone. Erdogan labelled the movement as ‘FETÖ’, a terrorist organization, although Gülen, 75-year old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism and terror in the name of religion.
Erdogan has also blamed the failed coup bid last year to Gülen but failed to present any direct evidence linking the cleric to the attempt. Gülen himself strongly denied any involvement. Many believe Erdogan staged the failed coup himself to set up his critics for a mass persecution and as a pretext to transform secular parliamentary democracy to political Islamist autocracy.
IMAMS FOR ESPIONAGE, DEFAMATION AND HARASSMENT
In another evidence on how Diyanet imams dispatched by Turkish government engaged in defamation and harassment campaign in Norway, Musa Gelici, Turkish Imam of Oslo Tyrkisk Islamske Union, an affiliate of Norsk Tyrkia Islamske Stiftelse, (Norway Turkish Islamic Foundation), also called Gülen followers as FETÖ terror militants in his Facebook message his shared on July 16, 2016.
As a result of profiling and intelligence gathering activities on Turks who are believed to be affiliated with Gülen movement, Turkish passports of some Turks living in Norway were unlawfully revoked by Turkish government. They were even threatened with messages saying that their names were shared by Turkish government and they will be arrested in case they go back to Turkey.
The harassment and intimidation campaign apparently fueled by Turkish government embassy and consulates in Norway is also supported by pro-Erdogan Turks. For example, Mustafa Samed Çetintaş, a Turk from the city of Stavanger, wrote on Facebook page, that members of Gülen movement started to take a legal action against smear campaign. He urged his followers to not make their messages public but continued advising them to spy on Gülen followers and inform Turkish government by sending special email accounts set up by Ankara.
Last month, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) in Germany launched an investigation into Turkish intelligence operations on German soil after a lawmaker filed a criminal complaint. The spying involved Turkish imams sent by Ankara and police teams on Wednesday raided the apartments of four imams in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate who are suspected of acting as informants on sympathizers of the Gülen movement. The GBA said in a statement that the Turkish imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20 of last year by the directorate to profile Gülen movement sympathizers.
Meanwhile, the President of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate Professor Mehmet Görmez has denied claims that some Turkish imams in Germany have been involved in spying activities against followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, saying that the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) is being insulted with such claims.
At a news conference on Friday, Görmez said: “No religious official has been allowed to do anything outside the scope of their duty. DİTİB, which is respected by all circles in Germany and a is guarantee of peace, has been insulted.”
Görmez claimed that the spying allegations against imams were related with the election environment and Islamophobia in Germany.
Austria is also investigating whether Turkey has been operating an informer network targeting Gülen followers on its soil, via its embassy in Vienna.
In December, Ankara had to recall Yusuf Acar, the religious attaché of the Turkish government in the Netherlands, who recently admitted to spying on followers of Gülen movement
The Dutch Telegraaf daily published the remarks of Acar, who admitted that he had collected the names of people who sympathize with Turkish cleric Gülen and passed it on to Turkish government
“As an attaché, I collected information that anyone can find on the Internet,” he said to the newspaper. He said he found the information on alleged members of “FETÖ” in the Netherlands.
The Dutch government called spying activities an “unwanted and non-acceptable interference in the lives of Dutch citizens.” Feb. 17, 2017