A media investigation has revealed that the names of two German politicians feature on a list of alleged supporters of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen that was handed to German security services by their Turkish counterparts at the Munich Security Conference in February. The list also contained the names, addresses, telephone numbers and secret surveillance photos of 300 individuals and 200 organisations with alleged ties to Gulen, who the Turkish government blames for a failed coup attempt last July.
The two German politicians named on the list are Michelle Müntefering, a lawmaker for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Emine Demirbüken-Wegner, a Berlin city parliamentarian with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic (CDU) party.
The existence of the list has been condemned by the German government as illegal espionage against it citizens as part of Turkey’s authoritarian crackdown on dissent following the July coup attempt. Speaking to Süddeutsche Zeitung German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, “We have repeatedly told Turkey that something like this is unacceptable.”
“No matter what position someone may have on the Gulen movement, here German jurisdiction applies and citizens will not be spied on by foreign countries,” said de Maiziere.
According to security sources the Turkish spy agency, MIT, relies on a network of 6,000 informers operating in Germany who pass on information about other Turks whom they suspect of being Gulen sympathisers or otherwise opposed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking to The Local.de, intelligence expert and author Erich Schmidt-Eenboom noted that this means there is one informant for every 500 people of Turkish descent living in Germany, making it a thicker network than that of the former East German spy agency the Stasi, which had one agent for every 6,000 people under surveillance.
The investigation into spying by the Turkish intelligence agency adds to an ongoing probe by The Federal Prosecutor’s Office into the activities of Diyanet, the Turkish religious authority which controls 900 mosques in Germany. Last year 16 clerics were charged with ‘secret service collaboration’ and mosques and apartments were searched by police.
Allegations of Turkish spying spread far beyond Germany. Reacting to recently released document in Austria, where similar investigations are taking place against Turkish activities, the Green party politician Peter Pilz said: “We were surprised ourselves when we saw that Erdogan’s Turkey has built a tightly meshed spy network from Japan to the Netherlands, from Kenya to the UK. In every single state a huge spy network consisting of associations, clubs and mosques is being employed via the embassy, the religious attaché and the local intelligence officer in order to spy on Erdogan critics around the clock.”
Turkish voters are due to go to the polls on April 16 to vote in a referendum that could give Erdogan sweeping new powers.