The German government has announced that federal prosecutors have launched a preliminary investigation into a smart phone application developed by the Turkish Security Directorate General and also used by Turkish expatriates in Germany to determine if it is used for spying, the Turkish version of Deutsche Welle reported on Wednesday.
The smart phone application, known as “EGM Mobil,” enables Turks to make online notifications to the police.
Responding to a parliamentary question submitted by the Left Party, the German government said the public prosecutor general of the Federal Court of Justice in Germany had launched a preliminary investigation into claims about the use of EGM Mobil as a spying tool.
“The fact that this application is used as a tool to inform on critics of the Turkish government cannot be denied,” it added.
The German government also said it does not have any information about the extent of use of the EGM Mobile application in Germany or if the information about a notification to the police is kept with the service provider or in the application.
It has been possible to download the EGM mobile app from Apple and Google Play since 2016, when Turkey survived a coup attempt after which the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on its critics under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Users of this application can file a criminal complaint against someone, and they can also upload photos and documents to the app relevant to their notification.
The Left Party also asked the German government how many people have been questioned or arrested in Turkey based on notifications made from the EGM mobile app. The German government said it had no information on that figure.
Responding to another parliamentary question from the Left Party in September, the German government said the public prosecutor general of the Federal Court of Justice had conducted 47 preliminary investigations between Jan. 1, 2017 and Aug. 23, 2018 into spying allegations among Turks in Germany.
The use of the controversial application by Turkish expatriates in Germany came to public attention in September when several German politicians expressed anger over its use for spying on critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
German TV station ARD reported that a Turkish expatriate in Germany notified Turkish police about another Turk who is a critic of Erdoğan by using the smartphone application in question. The person who informed the police sent a screenshot of the notification he made to Turkish police to the Erdoğan critic.
Over the past months, some German citizens of Turkish origin have been arrested as they entered Turkey due to complaints leveled against them by Turks.
Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, an intelligence expert, has described the smart phone application as a method of the Gestapo, the official secret police of Nazi Germany, while he called on German authorities to take action to prevent the use of the application in the country.
Cem Özdemir, former co-chairperson of German political party Alliance ’90/The Greens, also harshly criticized the use of the smart phone application by Turkish expatriates against Erdoğan critics in Germany.
He called on German President Walter Steinmeier and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to clearly express to Erdoğan, who was on an official visit to the country at the time, that “the line has been crossed.”
The Turkish government has been attracting widespread criticism for carrying out spying activities on its critics in Germany through its supporters and even state-employed imams.