The Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan engaged in a campaign of intelligence gathering and profiling of critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
Judicial documents incorporated into a criminal case file indicate that the Turkish Embassy in Baku gathered information on persons believed to be affiliated with the Gülen/Hizmet movement, a group critical of President Erdoğan, and that Turkish teachers, representatives of local associations, businessmen and journalists and their family members living in the country had been profiled by Turkish diplomats.
The information reported to the foreign ministry in Ankara was later used in a criminal indictment for a charge of terrorism by notorious Turkish prosecutor Adem Akıncı.
According to a decision dated December 20, 2018, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation (file no. 2018/43629) into 10 people who were listed by Turkish diplomats in Baku without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing. They were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Akıncı.
Judicial document reveals spying on critics .(The addresses and names of the Turkish nationals have been redacted for security reasons.):Azerbaycan
Profiling documents were conveyed to the foreign ministry by Erkan Özoral, the Turkish ambassador in Baku between 2016 and 2021. At a press conference in Baku in 2018, Ambassador Özoral described members of the Gülen movement as terrorists and stated that the state would pursue them until the last member is killed.
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 by Turkish intelligence agency MIT. İnandı, who had lived in Kyrgyzstan for nearly 30 years, was arrested July 12 on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.
Turkish embassies are also spying on citizens who have registered for consular services. In June Nordic Monitor published a Turkish foreign ministry communiqué, stamped secret, showing that the Turkish Embassy in Kosovo profiled 78 people who had listed their professions as teachers when they made applications with the consulate for various citizen services. Similar work has apparently been done in other Turkish diplomatic missions at the request of the Security General Directorate (Emniyet), the main law enforcement agency in Turkey, which was politicized with a mass purge of some 30,000 officers from the police force.
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 movement.
Turkish diplomatic missions continue systematic spying on Turkish government critics on foreign soil as 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.”