German police raid homes of Turkish imams

2017-02-15 20:02
(Matthias Balk, AP)

(Matthias Balk, AP)

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Berlin - German police on Wednesday raided the homes of four Turkish Muslim preachers suspected of spying for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government on the movement he blames for last year's coup attempt.

The imams, who were not named, are accused of reporting on Turkish followers of US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of having orchestrated July's failed putsch against him.

Alleged activities

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.

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

Police made no arrests but confiscated written material and data storage devices, said Frauke Koehler, a spokesperson 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.

In Austria, the interior ministry also said it was looking into charges that its Ditib counterpart Atib was "involved in the surveillance of supporters of the Gulen movement as well as Kurds, opponents and journalists".

Last December, the Dutch foreign ministry said Ankara had recalled its Diyanet representative after it emerged he had informed Ankara about Dutch citizens believed to oppose the Turkish government.

Suspected links

Foreign Minister Bert Koenders at the time labelled this "an undesirable and unacceptable form of interference in the lives of Dutch citizens by a diplomatic representative".

The Erdogan government has cracked down hard on followers of Gulen, who denies he was behind the attempted putsch.

More than 41 000 people in Turkey have been arrested over their suspected links to Gulen's movement and 100 000 fired or suspended. Many of them are teachers, police, magistrates and journalists.

The government says the purges are necessary to clean the state of the "virus" of Gulen's movement, which encourages its members to work in public services.

Read more on:    recep tayyip erdogan  |  fethullah gulen  |  germany  |  turkey

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