July 2021, by Zübeyir Koçulu, Jodi Hilton, Erkan Pehlivan
ANKARA – Turkey has been using its vast presence in Europe and official institutions such as mosques, consulates and institutions in an effort to track its dissidents using covert Turkish intelligence activities.
Although those institutions are meant to serve or support the Turkish population of more than 2,7 million in accordance with the democratic standards of Germany and other European countries, the Turkish government has been using them as instruments against dissidents, in particular since the failed July 2016 coup d’état. Turkish-funded mosques have done the government’s bidding through religious sermons, gatherings, and events and Imams have collaborated with the Turkish intelligence.
Tens of thousands of Turkish citizens have escaped Turkey over the past four years, in order to escape fake or trumped up charges and imprisonment.
Imams, Turks working at BAMF (German asylum body), and consulate workers have worked on behalf of the Turkish government to collect information about perceived and real opponents.
On the fifth anniversary of the failed July coup d’état, Turkey and its supporters continue to intimidate, harass, kidnap, extradite, torture and imprison perceived enemies. Many of those caught up in the purge include teachers, journalists and businessmen, some of whom had only tenuous links to the Gülen network.
The team has investigated the Turkish government’s activities abroad, and has found that they spied on, harassed, intimidated and in dozens of cases abducted dissidents or perceived regime opponents abroad. Thus far at least 139 Turkish or dual citizens residing abroad have been rendered back to Turkey – many under dubious circumstances. Although the majority of targets stand accused of being FETO terrorists, Kurdish rights and left-wing activists have also been targeted.
Photo: Relatives outside an Istanbul courthouse wait for news about detained relatives following the 2016 failed coup d’état
Photo credit: Jodi Hilton