Austrian authorities have deported Feyyaz Ö., a man who was previously arrested on charges of plotting to assassinate Austrian politician Berivan Aslan on behalf of Turkish intelligence, to Italy, where he holds citizenship.
Charged with receiving orders from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to carry out the assassinations of Austrian politicians critical of Turkey, particularly Aslan, a deputy of Kurdish descent from the Austrian Green Party (Die Grünen), Feyyaz Ö.’s trial is scheduled to start on Feb. 4.
According to the Austrian media, the suspect’s lawyer, Veronika Ujvarosi, stated that the Austrian authorities considered her client a “threat to public safety” and did not want him to remain in Austria. Ujvarosi said her client wants to come to Austria to stand trial.
The espionage charges leveled against Feyyaz Ö. carry a minimum of two years in prison.
Links to intelligence
The name of Feyyaz Ö. first appeared in the case of Metin Topuz, an employee of the US Consulate in İstanbul who was arrested in October 2018 over his alleged ties to police officers and prosecutors who took part in a 2013 graft probe that implicated then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inner circle and family members. Erdoğan called the investigation a “coup,” and Topuz, similar to the police officers and prosecutors involved, was arrested on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “espionage.” Feyyaz Ö. was an anonymous witness in Topuz’s trial.
Feyyaz Ö. disappeared after testifying against Topuz and his account was part of the evidence on which the Turkish court hearing the case ultimately sentenced Topuz to eight years, nine months in prison.
In recent testimony to Austrian authorities, however, Feyyaz Ö. said he was coerced into engaging in perjury against Topuz and that he was forced under threat to sign a blank page that was put in front of him.
In September 2020 Feyyaz Ö. turned himself in to the Vienna Provincial Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (LVT), the main domestic intelligence agency for the city of Vienna, and announced that MİT had tasked him with assassinating Green politician Aslan.
The suspect also brought with him two cell phones with Italian GSM numbers as well as a memory stick containing his written correspondence with MİT. In a second testimony later the same month, he said that along with Aslan, other Austrian politicians were also listed as targets.
Feyyaz Ö.’s lawyers insist that their client has voluntarily turned himself in and that he has never truly planned to kill anyone.
Berivan Aslan under protection
Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service, Aslan pointed out that the suspect had previously vanished in the Topuz case and that he might disappear again before the hearing in February. Aslan said a judgment in the case might be the first ever ruling against MİT in Austria, setting a precedent for possible subsequent espionage trials.
“That is why this case is so important to us politically and legally,” Aslan said.
Other incidents of Turkish espionage in Europe
Karl Nehammer, Austrian minister of the interior, announced in September that his country would press charges against a person who has confessed to spying for Turkey’s secret service without disclosing details about the person. Discovered following extensive investigations by Austrian police after violent clashes between Turkish and Kurdish groups in Vienna, the suspect was previously arrested in Turkey and recruited by MİT after being released and sent to Austria to spy on other Turkish citizens or Austrian citizens with a Turkish migration background.
In Germany federal prosecutors have launched 26 investigations into 35 individuals on espionage-related suspicions.
In the German government’s responses to written parliamentary inquiries, recent changes in MİT’s organizational structure and its role are frequently highlighted. The German government often emphasizes that MİT has become a central actor in Turkey’s security architecture as it serves the cause of President Erdoğan and his ruling party in implementing policies aimed at perpetuating their rule.
Assassination of Kurdish women in Paris
In January 2013 three Kurdish women — Fidan Doğan, Leyla Söylemez and Sakine Cansız — were shot in the head. The women were sought by Turkey due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while the Kurdish political movement maintained that they were activists.
Ömer Güney was arrested in connection with the assassination. He died in prison in December 2016, 36 days prior to his first trial in France. Official statements said that he had died due to health problems. Although the case was dropped following Güney’s death, several documents in the case file revealed that he had carried out the assassinations on behalf of MİT. A voice recording of him receiving MİT’s instructions was also discovered and included.