Documents obtained by Nordic Monitor reveal how Turkish embassies and consulates profiled a large number of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s critics in 2016-2017 and confirm that the information collected by Turkish diplomats was used to launch criminal investigations into those opponents by Turkish prosecutors.
Turkish diplomatic and consular missions around the world have collected information on Turkish nationals in line with a systematic spying campaign launched after a coup attempt in July 2016, listed their names as if they were part of a terrorist organization and transmitted it to headquarters. Moreover, Turkish diplomats compiled a long list of foreign entities that were owned and/or operated by people who were seen as close to the Hizmet/Gülen movement, which is active in education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and charity work in many countries.
According to the police correspondence, addressed to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and signed by Volkan İmişçi, deputy head of the Organized Crime Department, the Turkish National Police investigated 4,386 Erdoğan critics who have been profiled and kept in files at Turkish consulates and embassies. The police conveyed the results of its investigations to the public prosecutor in two separate CDs in accordance with spying lists that were previously dispatched by the foreign ministry in two other CDs.
The official document, stamped “secret” and dated July 5, 2018, revealed that the first of the foreign ministry CDs contained information about 226 critics of the Erdoğan regime, while the second consisted of the details of 4,160 Turkish nationals who live abroad.
New police documents proved the importance of these spy files in the Turkish judicial and administrative systems and noted that espionage files created by Turkish diplomatic missions have been used in criminal cases based on fabricated terrorism charges to maintain the campaign of intimidation and silence opponents of the regime.
Turkish police correspondence addressed to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office:MFA_spying
As previously disclosed by Nordic Monitor, the foreign ministry sent lists of profiled Turkish nationals in two CDs to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Office, the national police and Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT on February 19, 2018 via an official document for further administrative or legal action, the punishment of their relatives back in Turkey and the seizure of their assets.
Then, public prosecutor Adem Akıncı, who received the foreign ministry document on February 23, 2018, forwarded the classified CDs including information on 4,386 Erdoğan critics to the Organized Crimes Unit of the Ankara Police Department for further action. Akıncı also ordered the police unit to examine their affiliation with the Hizmet/Gülen movement and to present information about ongoing police investigations.
Public prosecutor Adem Akıncı asked for investigations into people who were profiled by Turkish embassies and consulates:Adem Akinci
The annex of the classified documents included a police report about the content of the CDs and a list of separate investigation files. According to the report, the police were able to conduct investigations into 2,808 of the Erdoğan opponents about whom Turkish diplomatic missions had gathered information but could not identify 681 critics due to the lack of ID information, or mistakes in the ID names or numbers. Moreover, Turkish police informed the prosecutor’s office that the criminal investigations into 721 profiled critics had already been launched before receiving the foreign ministry lists.
Police report that revealed the figures on investigations into Erdoğan critics profiled by Turkish diplomats:MFA_spying_2CDs.report
The Turkish police listed those people in separate files in line with their activities that are considered evidence of terrorism by the Turkish government. According to the list, the police view the legal activities of critics such as depositing funds in Bank Asya, volunteering at Gülen-affiliated organizations, working for companies linked to the movement and using a mobile messaging app called ByLock as acts of terrorism. The bank, schools, companies and other organizations were licensed and duly authorized by the government and regularly monitored and audited by the relevant government agencies at the time.
In Turkey over half a million people affiliated with the Gülen movement were investigated on similar charges in the aftermath of a failed coup. 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.
List of separate investigation files:MFA_spying_2CDs.report.list
Following the coup attempt, Turkish embassies and consulates became tools of spying in the hands of Turkey’s Islamist rulers. Turkish diplomatic and consular missions around the world have systematically spied on critics of President Erdoğan, profiled their organizations and listed their names as if they were part of a terrorist organization.
In February Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed clandestine spying operations by Turkish diplomats on foreign soil. Çavuşoğlu said Turkish diplomats assigned to embassies and consulates have officially been instructed by the government to conduct such activities abroad. “If you look at the definition of a diplomat, it is clear. … Intelligence gathering is the duty of diplomats,” Çavuşoğlu told Turkish journalists on February 16, 2020 following the Munich Security Conference, adding, “Intelligence gathering and information collection are a fact.”
In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, Turkish Ambassador to Canada Kerim Uras also admitted to spying on 15 Turkish-Canadians. “Any embassy would focus on the threats targeting their countries. That’s what every embassy does,” he told The Globe and Mail.
The Turkish government has also benefited from the pro-Erdoğan networks and organizations of the Turkish diaspora. In the last couple of years Turkish diaspora associations have been accused of acting as the long arm of the Erdoğan regime in Europe, and some of them have been put under surveillance by local intelligence agencies.
After the coup attempt, some European countries launched investigations into Turkish imams linked to Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), an ideological and political state apparatus tasked with spreading Erdoğan’s political Islamist ideology both inside and outside the country. In December 2016 Turkey had to recall Yusuf Acar, the religious affairs attaché at the Turkish Embassy in The Hague, after Dutch authorities accused him of gathering intelligence on the movement. Similarly, Belgian authorities rejected the visa applications of 12 Turkish imams seeking to work in the country in 2017.
Recently, the government of the central German state of Hessen ended its cooperation with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Türk İslam Birliği, or DITIB). “The doubts about the fundamental independence of DITIB from the Turkish government could not be resolved,” said Minister of Culture Alexander Lorz. DITIB, the German branch of the Diyanet and the religious arm of Erdoğan’s Islamist regime, controls imams sent by the Turkish government to European countries.
Police documents confirming that Turkish embassies and consulates run a spy network around the world, profiling critics abroad:MFA_spying_2CDs.all