As a result of investigations into imams who spied on Gülen movement sympathizers in Germany, Turkey has decided to recall some of the imams for fear of prosecution in Germany.
Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on Friday that the German-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) issued a statement announcing the recall of imams since trials in Germany had become a greater possibility for Turkish imams on charges of illegal profiling and reporting the results to Ankara.
DW talked to DİTİB officials who declined to indicate how many imams had been recalled to Turkey but confirmed their dismissal from mosques in Germany.
In the statement DİTİB claimed that the spying imams exceeded their remit based on instructions that had nothing to do with Europe.
On Thursday a German-based Turkish reporter tweeted that according to a Nordrhein-Westfalen intelligence agency, 13 imams are involved in illegal profiling of Gülen movement sympathizers in Germany, with the office of the federal prosecutor investigating a total of 16 Turks on spying charges.
Elmas Topçu shared the information on her Twitter account as allegations of imams in Germany sharing illegal profiling information with Ankara are increasing.
The issue reportedly was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her trip to Ankara last Thursday.
Earlier in February, another German state launched an investigation into allegations of Turkish imams affiliated with DİTİB spying for Turkey by profiling sympathizers of the Gülen movement.
Deutsche Welle reported last week that the president of DİTİB’s Lower Saxony and Bremen branch, Yılmaz Kılıç, confirmed the investigation into illegal profiling of people who are sympathetic towards the Gülen movement.
Meanwhile, the prime minister of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, said that control of DİTİB, an organization within Germany, by the Turkish government was unacceptable, following the appointment of an imam sent from Turkey to the DİTİB board in his state.
Zekariya Altuğ, the head of external relations at DİTİB, admitted to Deutsche Welle that in 10 to 15 cases, DİTİB imams had informed Ankara on Gülen movement sympathizers in Germany.
During her visit to Turkey last week, German Chancellor Merkel reportedly brought up the issue and Germany’s discomfort with the spying activities of Turkish imams.
Germany had launched a probe into DİTİB’s spying activities on Jan. 15 in the wake of an admission by DİTİB, which said some of its imams acted as informants against sympathizers of the Gülen movement,
A spokesperson from the German Interior Ministry who spoke to Deutsche Welle had said: “The probe launched by the security units against DİTİB imams regarding the allegations on the agenda is ongoing. There is an effort to determine whether the information [relayed to Turkey] has any consequences from the perspective of criminal law.”
The spokesperson, whose name was not revealed by Deutsche Welle, said the ministry expects the DİTİB administration to assist in the probe.
DİTİB said in a report published in the Rheinische Post newspaper on Jan. 12 that some of its preachers spied at Turkey’s request.
Germany’s largest Turkish Islamic group earlier denied allegations that Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) ordered DİTİB to report on the activities of the Gülen movement.
DİTİB said “some imams wrongly” informed on suspected Gülen followers in Germany.
“We deeply regret this mishap and have spoken to the Diyanet about this,” DITIB Secretary-General Bekir Alboğa told Rheinische Post, according to Deutsche Welle.
DİTİB should provide German authorities with the names of the imams who collected information or acted on the orders of the Turkish government, Volker Beck, a lawmaker for the opposition Greens, told Deutsche Welle.
A document dated Sept. 20, 2016 said that the Diyanet asked Turkish missions and religious representatives abroad to profile Gülen movement expatriates living in their respective countries.