Operatives in the Turkish Trade Office in Taipei spied on critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who had long resided in Taiwan, a document obtained by Nordic Monitor has revealed.
The two-page document, apparently prepared by officials posted to the trade office and sent to headquarters in Ankara, listed information gathered on nine Turkish nationals in Taiwan.
The critics, believed to be affiliated with US-based Erdoğan critic Fethullah Gülen, were also slapped with criminal prosecution in Turkey after they were informed on by the Turkish representatives in the trade office.
Turkish prosecutor Birol Tufan launched an investigation on December 12, 2018 on fabricated charges of terrorism, an allegation often used by the Islamist Erdoğan government to stifle dissent and muzzle critical voices in Turkey.
The spying activities pursued by Turkish operatives under the cover of official representation is part of a worldwide campaign by the Erdoğan government to hunt down critics, mainly those from the Gülen movement and the Kurdish opposition political bloc.
The Turkish government’s campaign in foreign countries went as far as kidnapping attempts in Europe and the United States. Two Turkish diplomats, then-Press Attaché Hacı Mehmet Gani and Hakan Kamil Yerge, then-second secretary at the Turkish Embassy in Bern, plotted to drug and kidnap a Swiss-Turkish businessman in 2016.
In June 2018 the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland issued arrest warrants for the two Turkish diplomats and confirmed that they would be arrested upon their entry into Switzerland. According to local reports, criminal proceedings against the two diplomats were launched in March 2017. Yerge left Switzerland in November 2016, while Gani remained until August 2017.
Official document revealed the spying activity by Turkey in Taiwan:Taiwan_espionage_by_Turkey_document
The Turkish diplomats were accused specifically of having gathered political intelligence for another state and of having attempted to kidnap a Swiss businessman with Turkish roots.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2017 that Turkish officials plotted to abduct Gülen from US soil by paying former US President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his son as much as $15 million.
Critics of the Erdoğan government abroad, especially members of the movement, have been facing surveillance, harassment, death threats and abduction since President Erdoğan decided to scapegoat the group for his own legal troubles. They have often been denied consular services such as power of attorney and birth registry as well as revocation of their passports. Their assets in Turkey are seized and their family members at home risk criminal charges.
The judicial documents once more confirmed that spying activities by Turkish diplomatic and trade missions result in serious consequences in the Turkish judicial system.
As previously disclosed by Nordic Monitor, the foreign ministry sent lists of profiled Turkish nationals in two CDs to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s 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.
The public prosecutor 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. The police conveyed the results of its investigations to the public prosecutor.
According to judicial documents released by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on January 16, 2019, the foreign ministry compiled a long list of foreign entities that were owned and/or operated by people who were seen as close to the Gülen movement.
Moreover, Nordic Monitor revealed how MIT infiltrated refugee camps in Greece in order to spy on opponents who were forced to flee to Greece to escape an unprecedented crackdown in neighboring Turkey.
Turkish diplomatic missions’ systematic spying on Turkish government critics on foreign soil was confirmed by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in February, 2020. 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.”
It is clear that Turkish diplomatic and trade missions violate the domestic laws of receiving states and the principles of international law by conducting unlawful information-gathering campaigns and sweeping intelligence operations.
The Turkish president turned against the Gülen movement after major corruption investigations in December 2013 that incriminated Erdoğan, his family members and his business and political associates. The order to spy on Gülen-affiliated people and organizations came in early 2014, and volunteers of the movement were targeted with criminal prosecutions on fabricated charges of terrorism.
The crackdown on the movement intensified after a coup attempt in 2016, which was a false flag incident to set up the opposition for a mass persecution. Since then, the assets and wealth of individuals, corporations and organizations that were seen as affiliated with the movement were branded as war spoils open to plunder. More than 130,000 civil servants have been dismissed by the government with no effective judicial or administrative investigation, 4,560 of whom were judges and prosecutors and were replaced by pro-Erdoğan staff.