Turkish ambassador in Stockholm slanders Swedish schools as terror financiers

Kaya Türkmen, Turkey's Ambassador in Stockholm.

In a scandalous remark made to Radio Sweden, Turkey’s ambassador in Stockholm, Kaya Türkmen effectively called Swedish schools and associations run by people affiliated with the Gülen movement as “terrorism hubs.”

“These schools are important source of income for them, source of income meaning terrorism financing,” he told the reporter from Radio Sweden.

“This organization has like 2000 school all over the world including Sweden,” he said.

Turkish envoy also admitted what he called information gathering about structural organization of Gülen movement in Sweden but denied engaging espionage and collecting data on private individuals.

“We are not interested about private individuals,” he remarked. “The only thing we are interested is the structural organization of Gülen movement, their schools, their associations, also in this country,” Türkmen noted.

The reporter confronted the ambassador how the embassy dealt with the structures without gathering intelligence on private individuals. Türkmen appears to have been taken back with the hardball question.

“Being involved in Gülen movement in any way, you see that as criminal activity, right,” the reporter asked. Ambassador Türkmen said there is a distinction between being a sympathizer for the movement and being of this smaller group that have plotted against the state and claimed sympathizers of Gülen movement have nothing to do worry in Sweden.

“There should be a limit between, you know, having sympathy, affiliation, acting together,” he added.

That distinction, if it exists at all, got lost in Turkey already with over 135,000 people, including thousands of professors, doctors, teachers, judges and prosecutors have been purged over their alleged links to the Gülen movement in the last eight month alone.

Turkish government decree law No.668, published in the Official Gazette on July 27, 2016, brands Gülen movement as ‘terrorist organization’ and described anybody “who belong to, connected to or came in a contact with” the group as national security threat. That description led to the dismissal of over 135,000 public employees, arrest of some 50,000 people and closure of close to 200 media outlets.

The decree-laws were criticized by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission that said mass dismissals of public servants, and the closing down of private institutions was done without any individualized decisions, was not based on verifiable evidence, and that due process requirements were not fulfilled.

Gülen movement has been inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen who has been advocating science education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and community contribution. The movement promotes a moderate version of Islam with a heavy emphasis on public service. The movement runs schools and universities in 180 countries.

Gülen has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and Turkey’s autocratic President  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on massive corruption in the government as well as Turkey’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. Erdoğan launched an unprecedented persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdoğan’s family members.

The ruling AKP’s Islamist leaders labeled 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.

In a major breaking story, Radio Sweden exposed how Turkish government tracks critics and dissidents in Sweden in what amounts to be an illegal profiling, harassment and threats leveled against supporters of Gülen movement.

Radio Sweden has obtained a recording of Özer Eken, chairman of a lobby organization with close links to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), attempting to strong-arm a member of the Gülen movement into providing information on other supporters.

“What I can tell you is that if you help the state, the state is going to help you,” Eken said in the voice recording, which Radio Sweden stated that it received from an anonymous source.

Eken claims to be a personal friend of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, and is chairman of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), AKP’s lobby organization in Sweden. The UETD is known for its close affiliation with the AKP government.

In the conversation, Eken threatened the Swedish Gülen supporter that there would be reprisals if he did not give some concrete information on Gülenist activity in Sweden.

Asked about whether sympathizers of Gülen have reason to be worried about profiling, Turkish ambassador said they have nothing to do worry about that.

He said embassy gather information from open sources and rejected accusations that his embassy engaged in espionage. He also denied that a list of critics and dissidents was maintained at the embassy. However, SCF was told several sources in Sweden that such list exists and conveyed to Turkish government.

In fact, Radio Sweden’s story also pointed out to the existence of such a list.

“Brother, they will want to have access to all activity going on here. If you do not give them something concrete, you are finished,” Özer Eken said.

He told him that his name had been added to a list of regime critics and that he risked arrest should he ever visit Turkey. He also said that he could have his wife arrested in Turkey.

You are going to be arrested, but your wife will be arrested too,” Eken said. “They are going to take you your wife as a hostage.”

When Radio Sweden confronted Eken with the recording, he said that it was not his voice. Radio Sweden has been able to prove that it is Eken’s voice on the recording.

This is not an isolated case. According to Radio Sweden’s sources, other people working for the Turkish state in Sweden are involved in the mapping of government critics. This includes the Turkish embassy in Stockholm and imams working in Turkish mosques in Sweden.

Emre Oğuz, a former Turkish journalist, now working as a teacher in the south of Sweden, chose to speak openly: “The Imams (who are paid by the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, Diyanet) must report about people who go to the mosque. I know that. I’ve talked to imams before the coup attempt. It was a special task for them. Imams who do not want to report are themselves reported. So now all imams follow directives from Turkey,” he said.

But after the coup, he said the reports have changed.

“After the coup the reports became more detailed and focused on all opposition groups. And now they write about people directly. For example, who is Emre, what does he do, who works with Emre?

He tolds Radio Sweden that the consequences of being reported are harder than before.

“Previously, Ankara nor the Diyanet (Turkish religious authoirty) used to do anything on the basis of these reports. Now though they are doing many things. For example, if there is a report about you and you go to Turkey, they can arrest you immediately upon arrival.”

Emre Oğuz is convinced that he is on one of the lists of traitors who would be arrested on arrival in Turkey. “Yes, absolutely. People close to the AKP have told me directly. They say they reported me to the embassy. If I go to Turkey, I am sure that they will arrest me and I will not be able to come back to Sweden.”

Ove Bring, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Stockholm University, said that Eken’s activities could qualify as refugee espionage.  “It’s against Swedish law, there’s no doubt about that,” he told news agency TT. “In addition, it’s against international law. It’s important to point that out. To have foreign agents on Swedish territory transgresses Swedish law.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has called Ambassador Kaya Türkmen, Turkey’s envoy in Stockholm, and expressed Swedish government concerns over the profiling of the critics of Turkish government and espionage scandal on Tuesday.

It is not the first time that pro-AKP groups in an European country have been profiling the sympathizers of Gülen movement. According to a report by Süddeutsche Zeitung with the NDR and WDR television channels on Monday, Turkish National Intelligence Service (MİT) has prepared a list of 300 Turks and 200 schools, associations and organizations that are connected to the Gülen movement in Germany. The lists include addresses, telephone numbers and photos of the people.

MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan submitted the list to Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), during the Munich Security Conference last month. Kahl forwarded the list to the federal government and all security institutions, the report claims. After evaluation of the list, German experts concluded that most of photos were taken secretly by surveillance cameras.

The report also said German authorities have started to warn people who are on the MİT list. Both the intelligence agency and the police took on the responsibility of informing Gülen movement sympathizers about the MİT surveillance.

Last month the coordinator of DİTİB, Murat Kayman, announced his resignation over the charges. German police teams raided the apartments of four DİTİB imams in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate who are suspected of acting as informants.

The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said in a statement that the imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20 of last year by the directorate to profile Gülen movement sympathizers.

Earlier, DİTİB officials admitted to profiling Gülen movement sympathizers based on instructions from Turkey’s top religious authority, the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

The Turkish government and President Erdoğan accused Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen and the movement he inspired of being behind a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In an interview published in Der Spiegel magazine on March 18, BND head Kahl said despite efforts at various levels, Turkey could not convince Berlin that Gülen was behind the failed coup.

In response to a question on the Gülen movement, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by President Erdoğan, the head of German intelligence defined the movement as a civilian association that provides religious and secular education through a number of educational institutions.

Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a great 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.

Earlier in January, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that although President Erdoğan and the Turkish government immediately put the blame for the July 15 failed coup on the faith-based Gülen movement, the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge, according to a report by The Times newspaper.

Contrary to accusations made by Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament has concluded on March 25 that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15.

Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said last week that he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the failed coup attempt in Turkey.

March 30, 2017

 

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