Infamous Turkish imams who were accused of profiling critics and opponents of Turkey’s president in Netherlands, Austria and Germany, which prompted investigations by authorities, have footprints in Nordic country, Norway, as well.
The Norwegian Islamist religious organizations that are affiliated with Turkish government and its Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) are reportedly involved in unlawful profiling activities of unsuspecting people of Turkish origin across Norway.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that Yusuf Yüksel, general secretary of Oslo-based Den Tyrkisk Islamske Union (Turkish Islamic Union), has publicly called for spying on members of Gulen movement, a civic based volunteer-driven organization that focuses on education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
In his message that was shared with a norsk-tyrkere (Norwegian Turks) on Facebook, Yüksel wrote that “Inform on FETO terrorists whom you know,” adding a link to his message that showed tip lines set up by the office of Erdogan in Turkish capital. The message was shared on July 31, 2016.
The Gülen movement is inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen who has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on corruption as well as Ankara’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. Erdogan launched a witch-hunt persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdogan’s family members.
Imams for espionage, defamation and harassment
In another evidence on how Diyanet imams dispatched by Turkish government engaged in defamation and harassment campaign in Norway, Musa Gelici, Turkish Imam of Oslo Tyrkisk Islamske Union, an affiliate of Norsk Tyrkia Islamske Stiftelse, (Norway Turkish Islamic Foundation), also called Gülen followers as FETÖ terror militants in his Facebook message his shared on July 16, 2016.
As a result of profiling and intelligence gathering activities on Turks who are believed to be affiliated with Gülen movement, Turkish passports of some Turks living in Norway were unlawfully revoked by Turkish government. They were even threatened with messages saying that their names were shared by Turkish government and they will be arrested in case they go back to Turkey.
The harassment and intimidation campaign apparently fueled by Turkish government embassy and consulates in Norway is also supported by pro-Erdogan Turks. For example, Mustafa Samed Çetintaş, a Turk from the city of Stavanger, wrote on Facebook page, that members of Gülen movement started to take a legal action against smear campaign. He urged his followers to not make their messages public but continued advising them to spy on Gülen followers and inform Turkish government by sending special email accounts set up by Ankara.
Last month, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) in Germany launched an investigation into Turkish intelligence operations on German soil after a lawmaker filed a criminal complaint. The spying involved Turkish imams sent by Ankara and police teams on Wednesday raided the apartments of four imams in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate who are suspected of acting as informants on sympathizers of the Gülen movement. The GBA said in a statement that the Turkish imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20 of last year by the directorate to profile Gülen movement sympathizers.
Austria is also investigating whether Turkey has been operating an informer network targeting Gülen followers on its soil, via its embassy in Vienna.
In December, Ankara had to recall Yusuf Acar, the religious attaché of the Turkish government in the Netherlands, who recently admitted to spying on followers of Gülen movement
The Dutch Telegraaf daily published the remarks of Acar, who admitted that he had collected the names of people who sympathize with Turkish cleric Gülen and passed it on to Turkish government.