Directorate of Religious Affairs recalls imams accused of spying in Germany
ISTANBULTurkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) announced on Feb. 10 the recall and discharge of Turkish imams who were accusing of spying by Germany.
The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) made the statement about the incident following a visit to Turkey by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Feb. 2, saying they did not accept the accusations of spying but that they decided to take some measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“The Directorate of Religious Affairs chose to discharge religious officials [imams] from their duties in Germany following necessary examinations and assessments after determining that they had exceeded their power,” it said.
The directorate also said they had made the decision to avoid damaging relations that have been continuing for 40 years between Turkey and Germany and to prevent the growth of a negative perception among the public toward the directorate and its officials.
Germany’s chief prosecutor had launched an investigation into possible spying by Turkish clerics in the country, with the country’s domestic spy agency chief saying they “would not tolerate” Turkish intelligence operations within its borders.
Turkey allegedly asked Muslim imams that were sent to DİTİB, Germany’s largest association of mosques, to provide information about followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the failed coup attempt.
Mehmet Görmez, the head of the Diyanet, told German news outlets on Jan. 20 that it was “devoid of reason to name the efforts of religious workers or DİTİB to try to safeguard Muslims from the wrong thoughts of organizations like FETÖ and Daesh [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL] as espionage.”
In December 2016, Turkey recalled the religious affairs attaché of the Turkish Embassy in The Hague, Yusuf Acar, after Dutch authorities accused him of gathering intelligence for the Gülen movement.