Germany investigates possible Turkish espionage

Indo Asian News Service

Berlin, March 29 (IANS) German federal prosecutor's office on Tuesday launched an investigation into suspected spying by Turkish intelligence service.

On suspicion of espionage in Germany, the Karlsruhe-based procuratorate will target the "unnamed entity", said its spokesman, Xinhua reported.

Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) reported that the probe might be directed at Turkish secret service MIT, since it has allegedly watched closely on Gulen movement supporters.

The German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on the same day said Germany would not tolerate foreign espionage on its territory, responding to media reports alleging that the MIT was spying on supporters of Fethullah Gulen, exiled spiritual leader living in the United States.

Germany's spy chief, Bruno Kahl, claimed to have received a list of 300 people from his Turkish counterpart -- whom the Turkish government believes are followers of the exiled Gulen.

The list -- which was handed over at a security conference in Munich -- is said to contain surveillance photographs and personal data, the BBC has reported. The MIT had hoped for Germany's assistance in tracking the individuals on the list.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that Gulen -- who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania in the United States -- was behind an attempted coup to unseat Erdogan, in July last year.

"No matter what position someone may have on the Gulen movement, here German jurisdiction applies and citizens will not be spied on by foreign countries," said Maziere, according to the BBC.

Following the revelation of Turkish spying, German authorities informed all 300 individuals on the list and the federal prosecutor confirmed to local newspaper, Der Spiegel, that they would proceed with investigations of alleged members of the MIT operating in Germany.

Relations between Berlin and Ankara are at perhaps their lowest levels following orders to ban Turkish politicians from campaigning in Germany for a controversial referendum, set for April 16, which would considerably strengthen Erdogan's powers.

Allegations of Turkish spying in Germany dated back at least the end of last year and have also focused on members of the Kurdish diaspora -- whom Ankara suspects of sympathizing with a separatist movement.

Last month, German police raided apartments of four clerics suspected of being spies for the Turkish government.