Turkey’s bounty offer to hunt down Erdoğan critics entices informant network abroad

A bounty offered by the Turkish government for information on critics and opponents of authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has enticed an array of informants in diaspora communities to spy on them and report to Ankara, Nordic Monitor reported.

According to confidential documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, one such case was recorded in Germany, where an informant passed private information about a US-based journalist and author who has been critical of Erdoğan to Turkish authorities to claim the reward money.

On March 16, 2021 a Turkish woman named Seda Sultan, who lives and works in Germany, sent an email to the Security General Directorate (Emniyet), Turkey’s main law enforcement agency. She said she was in possession of the current residential address, phone number and email addresses of Ahmet Kurucan and would share the information in exchange for the reward.

Kurucan, who has been living in the US for more than 20 years, wrote opinion pieces critical of the Erdoğan government for Zaman, at one time Turkey’s most highly circulated newspaper. Zaman, which used to sell 1.2 million copies a day at its peak, was seized by the government in March 2016 as the government wanted to silence the mainstream daily, which was exposing corruption in the Erdoğan government and revealing clandestine intelligence operations that aided and abetted armed jihadist groups. It was closed down by the government four months later.

The journalist continues to write op-eds for the Tr724 Turkish news website operating out of Belgium. He has also been involved in a number of interfaith dialogue and cultural organizations in the US. Turkey has asked for the journalist’s extradition, but the US State Department said the United States is not convinced of Turkey’s accusations against him and asked Turkish authorities to provide concrete evidence for the extradition request.

The informant in Germany wrote in her email that she came across the Emniyet’s website, which listed people wanted by Turkey and spotted Kurucan on the list. She expressed her desire to hand over the information and get the reward offered by the government.

Stating that she was not very good at Turkish, Sultan wrote the message in English. “If we could cooperate together with the government of turkey, I can provide a current phone number and also a valid residential address which might be his current place of living. And a valid email address. I have proof that he is in possession of this number,” Sultan said.

Sultan’s email prompted a fresh criminal investigation into Kurucan, who has faced multiple charges on bogus cases launched by the Erdoğan government since 2015. Yusuf Fatih Akay, head of the counterterrorism bureau at the Ankara police department, forwarded the informant’s email to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on August 5, 2022 along with the police investigation file.

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