Germany opens new probe into suspected Turkish spying
REUTERS photoGermany launched a second investigation on March 28 into suspected spying by Turkey, with the German interior minister saying Berlin will not tolerate foreign espionage on its soil.
Tensions are running high between the two NATO allies ahead of a referendum in Turkey next month that will decide whether the current parliamentary system should be shifted to an executive presidency. Berlin infuriated Ankara by canceling several campaign rallies by Turkish ministers on German soil, drawing accusations from Turkey of “Nazi” tactics.
Media reports of Turkish espionage targeting members of Germany’s large ethnic Turkish diaspora have deepened the rift.
“We have launched an investigation against an unnamed entity on suspicion of espionage,” a spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said.
He declined to comment on German media reports that the entity was the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) and that it was suspected of spying on supporters of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have been behind the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
A GBA spokeswoman said the investigation was separate from a probe launched earlier this year into possible spying by clerics sent to Germany by the Turkish government.
“Both cases concern suspected espionage involving Turkey, but at this point there is no common substance to the two probes,” she said.
There was no immediate response from Turkish officials.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and two broadcasters have reported that the MİT gave Germany’s foreign intelligence service a list of names of more than 300 supposed Gülenists living in Germany and 200 groups, schools and other institutions associated with the Gülen movement.
A German investigation indicated some of the photos may have been taken by hidden surveillance cameras, the reports said.
One German government source said it was clear that there was spying involved because of the nature of the documents provided to Berlin by the Turkish government.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on March 28 that he was “not surprised” by the latest media reports, adding that the lists of names would be looked at individually.
“We have told Turkey several times that such [activity] is not acceptable. Regardless of what you think of the Gülen movement, German law applies here and citizens who live here won’t be spied on by foreign states,” de Maiziere added.