An Ankara court has acquitted of espionage charges a Turkish lawyer who worked as a cooperating lawyer for the German Embassy in Ankara, the Turkish edition of the Deutsche Welle reported on Wednesday.
Lawyer Yılmaz S., who worked for the Germany Embassy as well as the embassies of other European countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, appeared at the Ankara 13th High Criminal Court on Wednesday.
Yılmaz S. was detained in Ankara in September 2019 and was subsequently arrested. He was released from jail in March pending trial. Lawyer Baki D., who was not jailed, was assisting Yılmaz S. in legal matters and was standing trial along with Yılmaz S. Baki D. was also acquitted of the espionage charges.
Levent Kanat, a lawyer for the German Embassy in Ankara, told Deutsche Welle that his client was “very happy” about the court ruling.
Turkish prosecutors accused Yılmaz S. of engaging in espionage in his role as a lawyer cooperating in asylum cases with the German Embassy in Ankara. Among the charges in his indictment, Yılmaz was accused of illegally accessing data from Turkey’s National Judiciary Informatics System. The platform, which is operated by the Justice Ministry, allows registered users to access information on ongoing criminal proceedings. This allowed German authorities, for instance, to see whether individuals seeking asylum may in fact face criminal charges in Turkey.
He was also accused of illegally procuring classified information for purposes of espionage by relaying his findings to the German Embassy as well as illegally procuring and disseminating personal information. The charges carried a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison.
The Ankara court saw no evidence of violations of privacy or the acquisition or distribution of personal data. Representatives from the German Embassy and the embassies of Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden observed the hearing.
Cooperating lawyers such as Yılmaz provided support for Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) by investigating asylum applications in the countries where they are filed. The approach allowed BAMF officials to ascertain the veracity of applications and whether political asylum was warranted.
According to Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Turkish authorities seized sensitive documents pertaining to 83 asylum applicants in the initial raid on Yilmaz’s office. The BKA reported that family members were also named in the documents.