Swiss prosecutors investigate Turkish couple who informed on dissidents

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Prosecution (Le Parquet Fédéral) has launched an investigation into a couple who informed on dissidents living in Switzerland to Turkish authorities.

According to a report by the TR724 news website, the couple reportedly informed on members of the Gülen movement, a dissident group that has for years been in the crosshairs of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

They accused the followers of the movement of such activities as holding gatherings, requesting donations for charity and organizing social and cultural events that most definitely do not qualify as criminal acts under Swiss law. The couple also accused them of membership in a terrorist organization, a reference to the Gülen movement.

The Federal Office of Prosecution announced in a statement that it would request permission from the Swiss Federal Council to launch a criminal case, along with the investigation, against the couple.

The couple and the Turkish diplomatic mission declined to comment on the development.

A positive response is expected from the Federal Council as it has previously approved similar requests, according to TR724.

Followers of the Gülen movement living in Switzerland have accessed the depositions of the couple, who had once taken part in Gülenist charity activities in Switzerland. It turns out that the couple went to the İzmir police on their own and provided bogus information on people who aligned themselves with the Gülen movement.

In September 2019 the people who were targeted by the couple filed a criminal complaint with the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office seeking damages in the amount of 200,000 Swiss francs based on Swiss anti-defamation laws.

Duy-Lam Nguyen, the lawyer for the complainants, said the investigation would deter people who want to volunteer information on dissidents, the TR724 news website reported.

Swiss law considers giving information to a foreign state, or espionage, to the detriment of Swiss citizens or legal residents to be a criminal act, carrying a sentence of up to three years in prison.

The Gülen movement is led by US based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has been a vocal critic of the Erdoğan government on a range of issues such as Erdoğan’s corrupt politics, his increasing authoritarianism and his aiding and abetting of jihadists in the Syrian civil war.

Members of the movement have been targeted since the corruption investigations of December 17 and 25, 2013, which implicated four of Erdoğan’s ministers, his son and others from his inner circle. Dismissing the probes as a Gülenist conspiracy, President Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and initiated a witch hunt against individuals and institutions affiliated with the movement.

The witch hunt gained momentum after an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 which President Erdoğan accused Gülen of masterminding, an accusation repeatedly denied by Gülen. Portraying the coup as a “gift from god” he initiated a massive cleansing, dismissing some 130,000 officials, Gülenists and other dissidents alike, from government posts and sending over half a million real and perceived Gülenists to detention facilities.

In the anti-Gülenist frenzy after the coup attempt President Erdoğan repeatedly called on Turks living in Turkey and abroad to inform on followers of the movement. In March 2018 Switzerland launched a criminal investigation into Turkish diplomats who allegedly planned to drug and kidnap a Swiss-Turkish businessman linked to the movement, Reuters reported.

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