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Turkish Embassy in Philippines spied on 29 Erdoğan critics

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The Turkish Embassy in the Philippines spied on Turkish citizens in the country and forwarded the illegal profiling list to Ankara, which led to the launch of groundless judicial procedures against them, Nordic Monitor reported, citing legal documents.

According to a December 18, 2018 decision by prosecutor Adem Akıncı, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation (file no.2018/28143 ) into 29 Turkish nationals who were listed in files dispatched by Turkish diplomats in Manila without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing. They were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Akıncı.

Judicial document dated December 12, 2018 reveals spying on critics. (The addresses and names of the Turkish nationals have been redacted for security reasons):

The profiling documents were sent by Esra Cankorur, the Turkish ambassador to the Philippines between 2014 and 2019.

Critics of the Erdoğan government abroad, especially members of the Gülen movement, have been facing surveillance, harassment, death threats and abduction since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided to scapegoat the group for his own legal troubles. They have often been denied consular services such as power of attorney and birth registry as well as having their passports revoked. Their assets in Turkey are seized and their family members at home risk criminal charges.

Most recently educator Orhan İnandı, who was included in documents previously published by Nordic Monitor, was kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan on May 31 and illegally brought to Turkey by Turkish intelligence agency MİT. İnandı, who had lived in Kyrgyzstan for nearly 30 years, was arrested July 12 on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Turkish embassies are also spying on the private and confidential information of citizens who have registered for consular services. Nordic Monitor published a Turkish foreign ministry communiqué, stamped secret, showing that the Turkish Embassy in Kosovo profiled 78 people who had listed their professions as teachers when they made applications with the consulate for various citizen services. Similar work has apparently been done in other Turkish diplomatic missions at the request of the Security General Directorate (Emniyet), the main law enforcement agency in Turkey.

As previously disclosed by Nordic Monitor, the foreign ministry sent lists of profiled Turkish nationals in two CDs to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the national police and Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT on February 19, 2018 via an official document for further administrative or legal action, the punishment of their relatives back in Turkey and the seizure of their assets. Public prosecutor Adem Akıncı, who received the foreign ministry document on February 23, 2018, forwarded the classified CDs including information on 4,386 Erdoğan critics to the Organized Crimes Unit of the Ankara Police Department for further action. The police conveyed the results of its investigations to the public prosecutor.

According to judicial documents released by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on January 16, 2019, the foreign ministry compiled a long list of foreign entities that were owned and/or operated by people who were seen as close to the movement.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed systematic spying on Turkish government critics on foreign soil as by Turkish diplomatic missions in February, 2020. Çavuşoğlu said Turkish diplomats assigned to embassies and consulates have officially been instructed by the government to conduct such activities abroad. “If you look at the definition of a diplomat, it is clear. … Intelligence gathering is the duty of diplomats,” Çavuşoğlu told Turkish journalists on February 16, 2020 following the Munich Security Conference, adding, “Intelligence gathering and information collection are a fact.”

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