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Austrian Lawmaker Alleges Global Turkish Surveillance

Greens Parliamentarian Peter Pilz this week showed selected reporters memos from what he says are Turkish consulates and embassies in 35 countries
By The News · 31 of March 2017 11:51:48
Peter Pilz from the Austrian Green party speaks during an interview with press in Vienna, Austria, No available, photo: AP/Ronald Zak

VIENNA – A hodge-podge of documents presented by a senior Austrian lawmaker purports to show a Turkish global surveillance network aimed at undermining organizations loyal to a Muslim cleric who Turkey believes was behind last year’s coup attempt.

Greens Parliamentarian Peter Pilz this week showed selected reporters memos from what he says are Turkish consulates and embassies in 35 countries as far flung as Kosovo, Japan and Australia reporting back to Ankara.

Depending on the country, the correspondence ranges from historical overviews of organizations backed by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, to detailed listings of schools, business and women’s organizations, religious societies, media outlets and non-governmental organizations. Some contain the names, addresses and personal details of those involved.

Officials from Austria’s Interior Minister said they hadn’t seen the latest documents, but were treating as genuine ones presented by Pilz that focused only on Austria. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pilz shared the new documents with selected reporters Thursday in Turkish and in German translations. A review of selected Turkish originals indicates they were authentic.

Pilz, in comments to the press, spoke of a “huge … network consisting of associations, clubs and mosques” that keeps tabs on Gulen via religious attaches at diplomatic representations who report back to Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pressing nations to crack down on the Gülen movement’s network of schools and charities outside of the country. He accuses Gülen of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt that saw renegade military officers and soldiers use fighter jets, helicopters and tanks to attack parliament and other state buildings. Some 270 people were killed.

Gülen condemned the attempted coup and denied he was involved, though he acknowledged that some of his supporters may have participated.

Pilz said that law enforcement officials in Germany were also familiar with his Turkish source. He said that he believes the list is only partial, but couldn’t say why the source chose the countries he did or what went into the selection of the documents.

Some of the correspondence is neutral in tone, but not all. A document from the Turkish religious attache with diplomatic accreditation to Belgium describes Gülen’s organization as “blood-stained.” It warns that a “European Professional Network” controlled by Gülen supporters is trying to “penetrate EU institutions.”

Excerpts from other countries:

— A report from the Turkish general consulate in Munich on the 2014 “Turkish Olympics” attended by Turks from all over Germany notes the support of numerous German “lawmakers, mayors, police chiefs” and other officials, and identifies some by name.

— From Finland, the report names key people surveilled, with details on some. It notes one is responsible for “contact with small businessmen.” It lists his birthplace and university in Turkey, also names his wife and says she “is responsible for the women.”

—The Kosovo report warns that the Gülen movement is gaining influence through its schools, an observation also found in documents from other countries. It says the son of President Hashim Thaci is among the “children of the important families of Kosovo politics and business” attending such schools.

In Germany, where Turkey’s intelligence agency recently gave its German counterpart a list of suspected Gülen supporters, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said Thursday the move may have been intended to “provoke us in some way.”

The list contained the names of around 300 alleged Gülen supporters thought to be living in Germany, among them reportedly a German lawmaker.

Earlier this year, an official of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said that 13 imams affiliated with DITIB, the union of Turkish-Islamic cultural organizations in Germany, had sent the names of alleged Gülen supporters to the Turkish religion authority.

Burkhard Freier said Diyanet, the Turkish government’s foreign department of the Office for Religious Affairs, had told employees in September to report the activities of groups such as the Gulen movement, and religious attaches at consulates had passed the order on to imams.

The matter also came up when German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ankara in January. She said then that the two nations must discuss any perceived problems with the Gülen movement “with each other.”