Austrian deputy says Turkey spying on Erdoğan critics

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Member of Austria's Green Party Peter Pilz Photo Credit: Reuters

Following the removal of several Turkish imams from Germany amid allegations of illegal profiling of government critics, an Austrian deputy on Monday claimed that Turkey had created a network of informants in Austria to report critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Ankara.

Peter Pilz, from the opposition Greens party, sent documents to the police elaborating on spying by ATİB, an umbrella organization run by the religion attaché at the Turkish Embassy that oversees scores of mosques in Austria.

Turkey’s network of informants receives payments from Ankara, Pilz told a news conference.

“The ATIB umbrella group is an instrument of hard, ruthless and, in my view, legally unacceptable Turkish government politics in Austria,” Pilz said in reaction to the illegal profiling of Erdoğan critics inside his country.

As in Germany, imams allegedly provide information on sympathizers of the Gülen movement, which Ankara accuses of masterminding a failed coup on July 15.

However, Pilz added that the spying of imams is not limited to Gülen movement followers but also has been expanded to include Kurds from Turkey and journalists.

Pilz described such activity as contravening Austrian law and pointed out that the police have documentation of communication between the religion attaché at the Turkish Embassy in Vienna and Ankara.

In reaction, Turkey denied the allegations, although the Austrian foreign ministry said the Turkish Embassy asked the president of ATİB, Fatih Mehmet Karadaş, to halt his “activities” as Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Karadaş defended his illegal profiling activities in the Austrian media, arguing that ATİB has a duty to ascertain whether people of Turkish origin have been “radicalized” by the Gülen movement. The movement is known for its peaceful activities promoting education and inter-faith dialogue.

The Austrian ministry of interior affairs said they are looking into the matter.

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