The Turkish Embassy in Luanda, the capital of Angola, which is situated on the west coast of southern Africa, has engaged in a large-scale spying campaign Turkish citizens who are critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Nordic Monitor has learned.
Judicial documents incorporated into a criminal case file indicate that the Turkish Embassy gathered information on persons believed to be affiliated with the Gülen/Hizmet movement, a group critical of President Erdoğan, and that Turkish teachers, representatives of local associations, businessmen and their family members living in the country had been profiled by Turkish diplomats.
The information reported to the foreign ministry in Ankara was later used in a criminal indictment for a charge of terrorism by notorious Turkish prosecutor Adem Akıncı.
According to a decision dated December 19, 2018, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation (file no. 2018/28175) into 61 innocent people who were listed in espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats in Angola without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing. They were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Akıncı.
Judicial documents dated December 11, 2018 exposed how the spying activities of the Turkish Embassy in Angola triggered a criminal investigation in Turkey. (The names and addresses of the Turkish nationals have been redacted for security reasons.)
Prosecutor Akıncı, who led the investigation into the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in December 2016, was accused of suppressing the evidence that the killer had links to various jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and was radicalized by several pro-government imams, including two who worked for the government religious authority, the Diyanet. Nordic Monitor previously revealed that several suspects said in court that Akıncı forced them to testify as if the assassination had been ordered by the Gülen movement. They were later jailed after declining the prosecutor’s instructions.
Profiling files were conveyed to the foreign ministry by Ahmet İhsan Kızıltan, the Turkish ambassador in Luanda between 2013 and 2019. Kızıltan is currently chief advisor to Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who was chief of general staff during a controversial coup attempt in 2016.
It is no secret that the Turkish president turned against the Gülen movement after major corruption investigations in December 2013 that incriminated Erdoğan, his family members and his business and political associates. The order to spy on Gülen-affiliated people and organizations came in early 2014, and volunteers of the movement were targeted with criminal prosecutions on fabricated charges of terrorism.
The crackdown on the movement intensified after the coup attempt in 2016. Since then, the assets and wealth of individuals, corporations and organizations that were seen as affiliated with the movement were branded as war spoils open to plunder. More than 130,000 civil servants have been dismissed by the government with no effective judicial or administrative investigation, 4,560 of whom were judges and prosecutors and were replaced by pro-Erdoğan staff.
Turkish embassies and consulates became tools of spying in the hands of Turkey’s Islamist rulers. Turkish diplomatic and consular missions around the world have systematically spied on critics of President Erdoğan, profiled their organizations and listed their names as if they were part of a terrorist organization. Working as a teacher in Gülen-inspired schools or contributing to non-profit institutions affiliated with the movement abroad are considered to be acts of terrorism by the Erdoğan government.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed clandestine spying operations by Turkish diplomats on foreign soil. Çavuşoğlu said Turkish diplomats assigned to embassies and consulates have officially been instructed by the government to conduct such activities abroad. “If you look at the definition of a diplomat, it is clear. … Intelligence gathering is the duty of diplomats,” Çavuşoğlu told Turkish journalists on February 16, 2020 following the Munich Security Conference, adding, “Intelligence gathering and information collection are a fact.”