Turkey infuriated by tapping claims amid Berlin, Gülenist spying allegations

Turkey infuriated by tapping claims amid Berlin, Gülenist spying allegations

Turkey infuriated by tapping claims amid Berlin, Gülenist spying allegations

In this July 8, 2013 file picture the BND monitoring base in Bad Aibling, near Munich, Germany is photographed. AP Photo

The Turkish government has toughened its stance on Germany’s alleged spying on Ankara, a NATO ally, while also vowing to take legal action over claims that the so-called “parallel structure” wiretapped a key governmental agency.

“The Foreign Ministry has been working on Germany’s wiretapping,” Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız told reporters Aug. 18. “It is an unacceptable situation.”

Earlier, over the weekend, a senior executive of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) used more cautious wording when asked to comment on a report by German weekly Der Spiegel which said the German secret service, the BND, has been spying on its NATO ally since 2009.

“I am of the opinion that this needs to be taken seriously,” AKP Deputy Chair Mehmet Ali Şahin said Aug. 17.

“Definitely, our government and Foreign Ministry will carry out the necessary research about the allegations in the magazine,” he added. Nonetheless, he also said Spiegel’s story needs to be approached “cautiously,” recalling the rocky relationship between the prominent news magazine and the AKP.

During his victorious presidential election campaign, President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched repeated attacks against Der Spiegel after the magazine hugely irritated the ruling party with a major cover story – written in both German and Turkish – that was sharply critical of Erdoğan’s strongman rule.

“Der Spiegel is not a magazine that sees favorable dreams about Turkey. It makes very unfair news about the AKP and especially about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” Şahin said.

German officials’ reported confirmation and justification of their spying on Turkey is likely to further infuriate Ankara. The Foreign Ministry was expected to release a statement on the controversy later Aug. 18.

In addition to confirming that Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has been spying on Turkey for years, Der Spiegel and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) newspaper cited German officials as saying Turkey belongs to the core target countries under observation by the German intelligence service.

“The German government has defended this line of practice vehemently, saying that Turkey cannot be compared to the U.S. or European countries like France and Great Britain. What happens in Turkey has a direct influence on domestic security in Germany, government sources told FAS. This includes the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK], left- and right-wing Turkish groups in Germany, drug smugglers and people smugglers,” Deutsche Welle’s English service reported Aug. 18.

The ‘unforgivable’ ‘parallel’ wiretapping

Speaking to reporters on the same occasion on Aug. 18, Yıldız elaborated further on a Turkish newspaper report which said on Aug. 18 that the parallel structure, an alleged shadow state within the state composed of followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen who aim at toppling the AKP government, has wiretapped senior civil servants involved in energy policy.

A police chief, known to be close to Gülenists and who was assigned to the Police Department’s intelligence unit, initiated the wiretapping of civil servants at the Energy Market Regulation Board (EPDK) in 2009, when Turkey was taking bold steps to transform its energy policy, daily Sabah reported.

“I consider the wiretapping of the EPDK as a very big loss for Turkey’s democracy. We will do whatever is legally required,” Yıldız said.

“Those who are curious should ask us, we would openly answer. But we cannot forgive wiretappings. I guess you didn’t give the personal wiretapping of me to your next door [neighbor]. You also gave it to more distant places, didn’t you?” Yıldız said.