Abdurrahman Şimşek, news coordinator for the Sabah newspaper, which is aligned with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been “mapping” political dissidents from Turkey in Europe, gave a Danish journalists association a false identity and address, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Şimşek, who is suspected of having links to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), has secretly tracked political dissidents in Europe and targeted people whose extradition is demanded by the Turkish government. Şimşek has targeted four journalists in exile — Cevheri Güven in Germany and Abdullah Bozkurt, Bülent Keneş and Levent Kenez in Sweden — and former police chief Murat Çetiner, also in Sweden, by revealing their addresses and secretly taken photos.
According to Dagens Nyheter’s investigation, Şimsek was a member of a Danish journalists association as a representative of Sabah. He told the association that he lived in a small town outside Copenhagen. However, the person who lives in the apartment next door has never seen him, and a Danish woman has lived at his supposed address with her child for many years.
The management of the journalists association said it had not been aware of Şimşek’s revelations, and the association’s board subsequently decided to expel Şimşek because he did not live in Denmark. Şimşek used a fake address in Denmark and the name of the Danish journalists association while pursuing and gathering information on Turkish and Kurdish political dissidents.
Some people who have been followed and targeted in Sweden by Şimşek believe that he is cooperating with Turkish intel agency MİT because otherwise he would not have been able to obtain such detailed information. Bozkurt, whose personal information has not been publicly available since 2020 after he was beaten up by three unknown men outside his home in Stockholm, said he did not believe an ordinary journalist would have the ability or means to find out where he lived, adding that the article about him was very detailed.
According to French journalist Guillaume Perrier, who has worked as a correspondent for Le Monde in Turkey, reports by Turkish news outlets that are loyal to the government often go hand-in-hand with the will of the political leadership and security services. “The revelations about political dissidents are part of a politically oriented psychological campaign. It has been used against people in exile in several European countries. The Sabah daily in particular has done this several times against Kurdish and Turkish exiles in Europe,” Perrier said.
The information gathered by Şimşek on political dissidents put many of them in difficult situations after it was publicly revealed by Sabah.
Journalist in exile Keneş was one of those whose address and personal information were published by Şimşek. A few weeks later, Turkish President Erdoğan demanded his extradition from Sweden at a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara, calling Keneş a “terrorist.”
NATO member Turkey is threatening to freeze Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join NATO unless they extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism,” including Keneş.
Çetiner, whose car was vandalized after Şimşek revealed his name and address in October, said, “I am very sorry these problems have reached Sweden because of the negotiations with Turkey. The Turkish government is using this to show its strength,” he told Dagens Nyheter.
Güven, an investigative journalist living in exile in Germany, said the purpose of publishing his address was to make him a target for Erdoğan supporters. After the report dropped, I had to take measures to be able to continue my work and protect myself and my family,” said Güven.
According to Perrier, European governments and security services do not pay enough attention to incidents of people being targeted within their borders, including Sweden. “Everyone has their reasons for not investigating this more thoroughly. For Sweden, it is clear at the moment that it wants to stay on a good track because of the NATO negotiations with Turkey. Erdoğan hopes that Sweden wants to negotiate, but nobody cares enough about the people who have been targeted,” Perrier said.
“Sweden will live up to all the obligations made to Turkey in countering the terrorist threat,” Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson said during his last visit to Ankara on November 8.
The Swedish parliament voted Wednesday on a constitutional amendment that would make it possible to strengthen counterterrorism laws, which is one of the key demands of Turkey from Sweden.
The amendment will make it possible to introduce new laws to “limit freedom of association of groups involved in terrorism,” the parliament had said in a statement prior to the vote.
A non-binding deal Sweden and fellow NATO aspirant Finland signed with Turkey in June commits them to “expeditiously and thoroughly” examine Ankara’s requests for suspects linked to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group that Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
The Gülen movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.