The Turkish government used its diplomats in Italy to profile opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and gather intelligence about them to help forge a criminal case against critics.
Judicial documents have confirmed that four Turkish nationals had been profiled by Turkish diplomats and reported to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara. Then information was later used in a criminal indictment for a charge of terrorism by a Turkish prosecutor.
According to a December 21, 2018 decision by prosecutor Adem Akıncı, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation (file no. 2018/43629) into Turkish nationals who were listed in espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing. According to the documents they were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Akıncı.
Judicial document dated December 11, 2018 reveals spying on critics by Turkish diplomatic missions. (The addresses and names of the Turkish nationals have been redacted for security reasons.):
The profiling documents were sent to Ankara by Murat Salim Esenli, the Turkish ambassador to Italy between 2016 and 2021.
Critics of the Erdoğan government abroad, especially members of the Hizmet/Gülen 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 having their passports revoked. Their assets in Turkey are seized and their family members at home risk criminal charges.
Most recently educator Orhan İnandı, who was included in documents previously published by Nordic Monitor, was kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan on May 31 and illegally brought to Turkey. İnandı, who had lived in Kyrgyzstan for nearly 30 years, was arrested July 12 on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. A confidential 105-page Turkish government report obtained by Nordic Monitor confirms it was Turkish intelligence agency MIT that abducted and illegally transported the dual Turkish-Kyrgyz national who went missing in Bishkek.
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.
Public prosecutor 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. 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 movement.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed systematic spying on Turkish government critics on foreign soil as by Turkish diplomatic missions 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.”