Diyanet official in Holland admits spying for Erdoğan

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The head of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) branch in the Netherlands collected the names of people who sympathize with Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen and passed them on to the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the chairman himself admitted in an interview with the Dutch Telegraaf daily published on Wednesday.

According to Yusuf Acar, the religious attaché of the Turkish government in the Netherlands and the local chairman of Diyanet, the information he passed on to Turkey is public information that he collected himself from the Internet. “As an attaché, I collected information that anyone can find on the Internet,” he told the newspaper. He said he found the information on alleged members of “FETÖ” in the Netherlands.

FETÖ is a deragatory term coined by the Turkish government to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization despite lack of any court decision to this effect.

Acar stressed that he was the only one to do so and that no imams were involved.

On Friday the Dutch branch of Diyanet and the Turkish Embassy denied accusations that information about Gülen supporters was being passed on to Erdoğan, calling the accusations “absolutely incorrect.”

According to RTL Nieuws, Christian political party the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) is one of the organizations mentioned as a Gülen supporter. CDA leader Sybrand Buma was furious. “This interference is bizarre and unacceptable,” he said to the broadcaster. “The allegations are ridiculous and false. They show how far the propaganda from Ankara reaches. Again it is clear that the Turkish government is trying mess with Dutch relations. The government should call the ambassador to account.”

State Secretary of Social Affairs Jetta Klijnsma also has called on people who feel intimidated by Diyanet to report it to the police.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Despite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, and the movement having denied the accusation, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

More than 120,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 90,000 detained and over 39,000 have been arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian. Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.

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