Thu, Mar 30, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Germany refuses Turkey’s request to spy on rivals

NY Times News Service, BERLIN

German officials on Tuesday acknowledged that they had rebuffed a request by the Turkish government to spy on its opponents in Germany, the latest strain to relations as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursues a referendum next month to expand his powers.

Tensions between Turkey and a range of European countries have mounted as the Turkish government, in effect, seeks to broaden the scope of its activities among Turks living in Europe, who can also cast votes in the referendum that Erdogan is not assured of winning.

The latest tension centers on supporters of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey in July last year.

Since then, Erdogan’s government has purged tens of thousands of people suspected of being Gulen supporters from jobs in schools, universities, the news media and state institutions.

Gulen lives in Pennsylvania.


On Tuesday, German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and two public service broadcasters reported that Turkey had handed over a list of more than 300 people and of about 200 associations, schools and other groups among the 3 million Turks living in Germany that supposedly support the exiled cleric.

Suddeutsche Zeitung said the list was given to German Federal Intelligence Service President Bruno Kahl by his Turkish counterpart at the annual Munich Security Conference last month.

On Tuesday, German Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maiziere showed little surprise at those reports. While not explicitly confirming them, he made it clear that Turkey’s request had been rebuffed and would continue to be.

“Germany will not tolerate foreign agencies spying on its territory,” De Maiziere said.

“Espionage activities on German territory are punishable by law and are not tolerated,” he told reporters during a visit to Passau in southern Germany. “That applies to every foreign state and every intelligence agency.”

“We have already told Turkey several times that such things don’t work,” De Maiziere added. “Independently of how one stands on the Gulen movement, it is German law which applies here and citizens who live here are not spied on here by foreign agencies.”


Kahl told the news magazine Der Spiegel that “Turkey has tried on the most different levels to convince us” that Gulen supporters are at work in Germany.

“But it has not succeeded up till now,” he said.

In fact, rather than pursuing the request, German authorities have warned some Turks living in Germany that they may face difficulties in Turkey after being identified by the Turkish government as Gulen supporters.

The reports were the latest example of perceived Turkish intrusions in Europe, where Erdogan has been criticized for exploiting the openness of Western democracies to pursue greater authoritarian powers for himself.

In particular, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries have objected to Erdogan sending senior ministers on visits to Western Europe for overt or thinly disguised campaign rallies to support a referendum that could limit civil liberties in Turkey if it succeeds.

Erdogan has grown increasingly pointed in his attacks on Turkey’s allies in Europe as the vote approaches. When some Turkish ministers were prevented from appearing, Erdogan bitterly accused even the Dutch, whose country was occupied by the Nazis in World War II, of adopting Nazi tactics.

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