The Turkish government used its embassy in Warsaw to profile opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and gather intelligence about them to help forge a bogus criminal case against a critic.
An official document obtained by Nordic Monitor revealed that a Turkish national living in Poland was profiled by the Turkish Embassy and reported to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara. The information collected by the embassy was later used in a criminal indictment for a charge of terrorism against the critic.
According to the judicial document, dated February 15, 2017, the then-chief public prosecutor of Kütahya province, Ali Ulvi Yılmaz, urged the public prosecutor’s office in Simav, a district of Kütahya, to launch an investigation into an educator in Poland who was listed in espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats in Warsaw without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing.
Yılmaz underlined the fact that the consular affairs directorate of the foreign ministry had sent a notice to the prosecutor’s office about the Turkish national in order to open an investigation, then ordered the Simav prosecutor to provide further information on the critic and his family members, who were living in a village. The communiqué also included the residential address of the critic in Poland.
The document has confirmed that the relevant departments of the Turkish Foreign Ministry play a pivotal role in triggering criminal cases involving Turkish nationals living abroad. It also exposes how criminal investigations, prosecutions and trials are conducted in Turkey and how spying activities by Turkish diplomatic missions result in serious consequences in the Turkish judicial system.
Judicial document dated February 15, 2017 reveals the spying on critics in Poland by the Turkish Embassy. (The address and name of the Turkish national have been redacted for security reasons):Polond_consulate_spying
Critics of the Erdoğan government abroad, especially members of the Gülen movement, have been facing surveillance, harassment, death threats and abduction since 2014, when then-Prime Minister and now President Erdoğan decided to scapegoat the group for his own legal troubles, ranging from corruption to aiding and abetting jihadist groups in Syria.
The document exposes clandestine spying activity in Polish territory that targets critics as part of President Erdoğan’s long arm and campaign of intimidation to suppress dissenting voices. Turkish nationals profiled by the government are often denied consular services such as power of attorney and birth registry as well as having their passports revoked. Their assets in Turkey are seized and their family members at home risk criminal charges.
Nordic Monitor previously reported on official correspondence from the Turkish Foreign Ministry that revealed how Turkish embassies and consulates have become tools of spying in the hands of Turkey’s Islamist rulers. The correspondence includes two CDs, the first of which contains information about the leading critics of the Erdoğan regime, while the second CD consists of details of the structure of the Gülen movement in each country and a full list of people believed to be affiliated with the movement. Those documents exposed the Belgian part of the spying activities by Turkish diplomats abroad.
According to judicial documents released by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on January 16, 2019, the foreign ministry had compiled a long list of foreign entities that were owned and/or operated by people who are seen as close to the movement in 92 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
In Turkey, over half a million people affiliated with the Gülen movement have been put in detention facilities on similar charges in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016. Based on profiling lists, people were arrested, investigated and even prosecuted in Turkey. Their assets were seized, and family members and relatives were also the subject of criminal charges. More than 130,000 civil servants have been dismissed by the government with no effective judicial or administrative investigation since the coup attempt.
It is clear that Turkish diplomatic missions violate the domestic laws of receiving states and the principles of international law by conducting unlawful information-gathering campaigns and sweeping intelligence operations. Erdoğan’s envoys enjoyed the privileges and immunities described in international conventions while they systematically spied on critics of the president, collected information on Turks living abroad and transmitted it to headquarters.
The immunities and privileges of diplomats and consular staff are governed by international conventions. However, diplomats enjoying the privileges and immunities described in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations are under a duty to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state and to avoid interfering in its internal affairs as detailed in Article 41. Similarly, consular staff are granted limited privileges and immunities by the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs, but the host state authorities can start investigations and prosecute any of the personnel if they perpetrate crimes inside or outside the consulate premises, according to Article 43 of the convention.