A Basel police officer of Turkish origin has been arrested on charges of spying on critics of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Switzerland.
According to the Basler Zeitung newspaper, the 37-year-old police officer, identified only by the initials Y.S., extracted the personal data of a Turkish expatriate in the Swiss city of Basel from the police database.
The victim, also of Turkish descent, is a strong opponent of Erdoğan and had earlier avoided disclosing his address and other relevant data during a Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) meeting.
UETD is a lobbying organization for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Europe.
Y.S., also an UETD member, forwarded all the data he illegally obtained from the police database to the UETD office in Zurich, after which they transmitted it to a Turkish consulate, the newspaper said, quoting anonymous sources from within the UETD.
“If the personal data of a Basel citizen has been passed on to the Turkish consulate via the UETD, the criminal code calls it political espionage, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to three years,” the newspaper stated.
It is not the first time that UETD members have been involved in pressuring Erdoğan critics abroad.
“You are going to be arrested, but your wife will be arrested too,” UETD Chairman Özer Eken told a Turkish expatriate in Sweden before asking him to spy on critics of the Turkish government. According to a tape recording Radio Sweden obtained, Eken tried to force an alleged supporter of the Gülen movement into providing information on his colleagues.
Tuba Sarıaltın, former deputy head of the UETD’s women’s branches in Germany’s Bavaria region, who also volunteers for a refugee foundation, has been proven to be collecting intelligence about Turkish families seeking asylum in Germany in order to report them to Turkish authorities, according to her Twitter posts.
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 AKP government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 2 that a total of 113,260 people have been detained, 47,155 people including 10,732 police officers, 7,631 military officers, 2,575 judges and prosecutors and 208 local administrative officials were arrested as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the putsch. (Turkey Purge)