German police teams on Wednesday morning raided the apartments of four Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) imams in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate who are suspected of acting as informants on sympathizers of the faith-based Gülen movement.
The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said in a statement that the imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20 of last year by the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate [to profile Gülen movement sympathizers].
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the four imams were members of DİTİB.
“It is very clear that the influence of the Turkish state on DİTİB is big. The association must plausibly disengage itself from Ankara,” Maas said in a statement.
The GBA said Wednesday’s searches were aimed at finding more evidence to link the suspects to espionage activities.
“The suspects are suspected of having collected information about members of the so-called Gülen movement and passed it on to the general consulate in Cologne,” the GBA said.
Last month the GBA launched an investigation into Turkish intelligence operations on German soil after a lawmaker filed a criminal complaint. Austria is also investigating whether Turkey has been operating an informer network targeting Gülen followers on its soil, via its embassy in Vienna.
Turkey has accused Germany of harboring militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and far-leftists of the DHKP/C, which has carried out attacks in Turkey. German officials reject the accusation.