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Austrian MP has evidence of Turkish surveillance abroad

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Austrian MP has evidence of Turkish surveillance abroad
Peter Pilz. Photo: Die Grünen
12:10 CET+01:00
Austrian Greens MP Peter Pilz has said that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “should be investigated by the Austrian state prosecutor”, as he has ordered Turkish diplomatic offices around the world to spy on organizations loyal to a Muslim cleric who Turkey believes was behind last year's coup attempt.

Pilz has memos from the Turkish Embassy in Vienna and the Turkish Consulate in Salzburg which show ATIB, the union of Turkish-Islamic cultural organizations in Austria, sending reports on organizations backed by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to diplomats, with the information then forwarded to Ankara.

Pilz said his team is working on publishing similar documents from 30 other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. He believes Turkey has a "global spying network," with the religious attaches of the various embassies "very often the main Erdogan agents".

Turkey is pressing nations to crack down on the Gulen movement's network of schools and charities outside of the country. It accuses Gulen of orchestrating the July 15th coup that saw military officers and soldiers use fighter jets, helicopters and tanks to attack parliament and other state buildings. Some 270 people were killed.

In an interview earlier this week with the Austrian newspaper Kurier, Fatih Karadas, an official at the Turkish embassy in Vienna who also leads ATIB, denied the activities constituted spying. He said it was "our religious duty to conduct investigations into whether in Austria ... Turkish-origin citizens were influenced and misused or radicalized by Gulen."

Officials from Austria's Interior Ministry confirmed the government was treating the documents obtained by Pilz as genuine. Spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundböck said Austrian anti-spying laws were applicable only in case of espionage against state institutions, and not individuals. On Tuesday, Chancellor Christian Kern said a special audit will be carried out at ATIB, to find out where it receives financial support from.

In an interview with the Krone newspaper on Wednesday, Pilz said he believes Erdogan also wants to “destabilise the EU” and that his intention is to try and take control of the Turkish community in Austria.

German police aided the homes of four Turkish Muslim preachers on Wednesday, suspected of spying for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government on Turkish followers of Fethullah Gulen.

The four religious leaders allegedly passed on information through the Turkish consulate in the western city of Cologne to the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate, known as Diyanet, prosecutors said.

"The aim of today's searches is to gather further evidence on the alleged activities of the accused," prosecutors said after the raids in the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Police made no arrests but confiscated written material and data storage devices, said Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecution service.

News site Spiegel online reported that the imams belong to Ditib, an organisation controlled by Ankara that manages some 900 mosques or religious communities in Germany.

 

 

 

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