Turkey’s intelligence agency has obtained information on the identity of hundreds of Turkish nationals who have applied for asylum in Europe, especially in Greece and Germany, according to classified police department documents exposed by a journalist.
Adem Yavuz Arslan, a Turkish journalist living in exile in the US, reported on the tr724 news website that the classified documents sent to the provincial police departments included the Turkish national identity numbers and current countries of residence of nearly a thousand asylum seekers, most of whom were the subject of investigations in Turkey over their alleged ties to the Gülen movement.
Ankara accuses the Gülen movement of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, although it strongly denies any involvement.
The followers of the movement started an exodus from Turkey after the failed coup, seeking asylum in European countries due to a large-scale crackdown targeting them.
Turkish prosecutors have been ordering the detention of hundreds of alleged Gülen followers nearly every week in the post-coup crackdown ongoing since 2016. According to the Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, as of March 2019, more than half a million people were detained by police as part of investigations into the movement.
One document, drafted on April 18, 2019, indicates that the Turkish government had knowledge of Gülen followers in detention centers for refugees in Greece, the first destination for those who flee Turkey.
Many of them later traveled to other European countries, mainly Germany, and applied for asylum there.
The documents also include the latest status of investigations into the Turkish nationals, including dismissed judges, prosecutors, military members and police officers.
Last year the German government published a four-page brochure warning Turkish asylum seekers about Turkish spies who had access to the refugee centers, according to a Turkish journalist based in Germany.
Another document, drafted on March 26, 2019, listed 342 individuals who were under investigation in Turkey and who had applied for asylum in European countries. They were also described as civil servants who had been purged from their jobs.
Turkey dismissed some 140,000 public servants in the aftermath of the coup attempt, declaring them as being linked to terrorist organizations.
The documents clearly stated that the information about the Turkish asylum seekers was coming from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and that it could not be used as evidence in court.
According to the German government’s four-page brochure, some Turkish spies had come to Germany posing as asylum seekers to gather information about Turkish nationals in the detention centers.
In addition to Gülen followers, many Kurds use same route to flee the country due to an ongoing crackdown on pro-Kurdish parties, media and civil society organizations.
Another document, drafted on Aug. 20, 2019, included the identity numbers of 568 individuals who had stayed at refugee centers in Greece.
All documents have information on the latest country of residence of the asylum seekers as well as the status of their asylum applications.
The Turkish government has been closely monitoring Gülen followers in Europe and on occasion has abducted some of them from countries such as Moldova, Albania and Kosovo. Switzerland in 2018 issued arrest warrant for 2 Turkish diplomats who had tried to kidnap a Swiss businessman for his alleged ties to the movement.
A lawyer working with the German Embassy in Turkey was arrested in September, accused of illegally accessing judicial data and charged with espionage.
According to a report published by Deutsche Welle, his arrest risked revealing the identities of Turkish asylum seekers in Germany because he was fact-checking the stories of refugees concerning their legal status in Turkey.