Turkey’s intel service spies on Gülen followers, PKK supporters in Germany: report

Turkish voters living in Germany take pictures of themselves in front of Turkish flags outside a polling station set up in the Grugahalle hall in Essen, western Germany, on May 23, 2023, ahead of Turkey's first runoff election to take place on May 28, 2023. Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Followers of the faith-based Gülen movement and supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are the primary targets of Turkish intelligence agents in Germany, Turkish Minute reported, citing a report from the German interior ministry.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) released its 2023 report on Wednesday, announced by German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and BfV President Thomas Haldenwang at a news conference in Berlin.

The report released by the BfV, whose main tasks are to monitor and analyze anti-constitutional activities by right and left-wing extremists and extremist foreigners in Germany and to prevent espionage by other countries, described Turkey’s intelligence services, without naming the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), as having a central place in the Turkish state apparatus.

“The primary target of intelligence is organizations that Turkey classifies as extremist or terrorist, such as the movement of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. This includes, above all, the ‘Kurdistan Workers’ Party’ [PKK], which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the USA,” the report said.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim preacher Gülen, of masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016 and labels it as a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Since 2016, Turkey has arrested tens of thousands of people suspected to have links to the faith-based group, while thousands of Gülen followers have fled Turkey and sought refuge in Europe and other countries in order to avoid the government-led crackdown.

For years, Turkey has repeatedly urged the German authorities to take action against Gülen supporters who sought asylum in the country.

Unlike the PKK, the Gülen movement is not recognized as a terrorist organization by the West.

According to the report, the Turkish intelligence services have the opportunity to covertly gather information on their targets due to the sizable Turkish community and numerous Turkish organizations and institutions as well as the large number of diplomatic missions in the country.

The Turkish population in Germany, estimated at more than 3 million, is one of the largest and most influential immigrant groups in the country.

The report also talked about numerous arrests and detentions as well as entry and exit bans for travelers to Turkey from Germany, saying they demonstrate the high level of interest Turkish state authorities have in criminal prosecution.

“The focus is on actual or alleged activities of these people for organizations classified as terrorists in Turkey, such as the PKK or the Gülen movement,” the report said, adding that the activities of these people that are protected by laws in Germany are subjected to criminal prosecution in Turkey, resulting in the arrest or travel bans on people who have contacts with such organizations.

“Germany remains one of the primary targets for Turkish intelligence services. They are continuing their intelligence activities at a high level. It is also to be expected that the influence activities of Turkish state or government-related organizations will continue in Germany,” the report said.

Since the coup attempt, the MİT has been involved in the abduction of dozens of people from various countries due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, drawing the condemnation of international rights groups.

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