The front page of the pro-government Star daily on Thursday bore a headline saying “Merkelist Terror” and criticized German police investigations into allegations of Turkish imams affiliated with German-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) spying for Turkey by profiling sympathizers of the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of being behind a failed coup in July of last year.
The daily said that several houses of Turkish imams, who are allegedly accused of being spies for Turkey, were raided by German police and likened its headline “Merkelist Terror” to a remark by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Feb. 2 when she said “Islamist terror” while referring to terrorist activities by radical Islamist groups.
As a result of investigations into imams who spied on Gülen movement sympathizers in Germany, Turkey recently decided to recall some of the imams for fear of further prosecution.
Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on Feb. 10 that DİTİB issued a statement announcing the recall of imams since trials in Germany had become a greater possibility for Turkish imams on charges of illegal profiling and reporting the results to Ankara.
DW talked to DİTİB officials, who declined to indicate how many imams had been recalled to Turkey but confirmed their dismissal from mosques in Germany.
In the statement DİTİB claimed that the spying imams exceeded their remit based on instructions that had nothing to do with Europe.
On Feb. 9, Elmas Topçu, a German-based Turkish reporter, tweeted that according to a Nordrhein-Westfalen intelligence agency, 13 imams are involved in illegal profiling of Gülen movement sympathizers in Germany, with the office of the federal prosecutor investigating a total of 16 Turks on spying charges.
Zekeriya Altuğ, the head of external relations at DİTİB, admitted to Deutsche Welle that in 10 to 15 cases, DİTİB imams had informed Ankara on Gülen movement sympathizers in Germany.
During a recent visit to Turkey, German Chancellor Merkel reportedly brought up the issue and Germany’s discomfort with the spying activities of Turkish imams.
A spokesperson from the German Interior Ministry who spoke to Deutsche Welle had said: “The probe launched by the security units against DİTİB imams regarding the allegations on the agenda is ongoing. There is an effort to determine whether the information [relayed to Turkey] has any consequences from the perspective of criminal law.”
DİTİB said “some imams wrongly” informed on suspected Gülen followers in Germany.
“We deeply regret this mishap and have spoken to the Diyanet about this,” DITIB Secretary-General Bekir Alboğa told Rheinische Post, according to Deutsche Welle.