German police arrests suspect of spying on Gülenists for Turkey

DUSSELDORF, Germany – A new case of Turkish espionage adds to evidence of the mounting suspicions that the increasingly authoritarian Turkish regime has recruited Turks abroad to target opponents of Turkey’s AKP-MHP regime led by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip. German authorities announced on Friday that they have arrested a Turkish citizen in the German city of Dusseldorf on accusation of spying on members of the Fethullah Gülen movement.

The Fethullah Gülen movement is a former ally of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. Where in Turkey political parties often get involved in fights over power, private and state companies and resources, the Gülen movement lost this battle. The fallout started in the early 2010s. President Erdogan, who is now pulling almost all the strings in the country, used the July 15, 2016, coup attempt to put an end to the Islamist Gülen movement, both at home and abroad. Erdogan has since sacked, imprisoned, and replaced hundreds of thousands of civil servants, judges, public prosecutors, academics, politicians, and journalists. Even alleged Gülenists abroad are not safe.

The Gülen movement has been classified a terrorist organization by Turkey since May 2016. Fethullah Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania in the U.S. since 1999.

The German Prosecutor’s Office stated that the Turkish citizen (40) was arrested on September 17, 2021 and is now under investigation. The Prosecutor’s Office indicated that the German authorities suspect that the arrested person carried out activities in Germany as an agent of the Turkish intelligence services, and that he had violated the country’s arms law.

Some three million ethnic Turks live in Germany. Whether this number includes the 500 thousand to 1 million German Kurds and 150.000 German Syriacs is unknown.

The Sweden-based Nordic Monitor has documented several cases of Turkish spying operations that targeted opponents in e.g. Austria, Belgium, the UK, and France, Canada, and Venezuela.