Three suspects of Turkish origin have been charged with espionage in an indictment prepared by the German attorney-general that includes wiretapped phone conversations revealing transfers of huge sums of money and claims of Germany being the true enemy of Turkey.
In the third hearing of the suspects’ trial, provincial Police Chief Steffan Blasius testified that a suspect and former aide of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Muhammed Taha Gergerlioğlu, 59, frequently communicated with German national Göksel Güler, also a suspect in the case, and many others, some of whom remain unidentified.
Blasius said the police prepared 3,300 pages of transcripts from more than 20,000 wiretapped phone and Internet communications. Police only mentioned the headings of the transcripts in court, without going into detail. Blasius read headings such as “Ismail al-Buti, 500 million USD,” “Swiss Bank, power of attorney, 500 million USD” and “To be given to RTE [Erdoğan]” in the Koblenz High Court.
Last year, the leader of the Turkish main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, claimed Erdoğan has eight Swiss bank accounts. He called on the president to prove otherwise, but Erdoğan has never responded.
During the trial of the suspects, the third of whom is Turkish national Ahmet Duran Y. and all of whom were arrested in Germany in December on suspicion of espionage, the court rejected the defense’s attempt to have the indictment thrown out because of ongoing cooperation over terrorism between the two countries.
In May, the attorney-general filed charges against the trio, accusing them of spying on behalf of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
Blasius stated that Güler had acted as a sort of personal secretary for Gergerlioğlu, organizing his itinerary and picking him up from the airport when he came to Germany. He said the two originally spoke over the phone, but later switched to written communication, often using messaging software, including Skype, Viber, Tango and WhatsApp.
Among the headings of transcribed messages were “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will reach [out to] 7 billion people and bring justice to the world” and “Arab media launched a campaign against TR [Turkey], all except Al Jazeera.”
‘Germany real enemy of Turkey’
A message Gergerlioğlu sent to an unidentified person on Aug. 18, 2014, stated, “Germans are our real enemies,” “These [Germans] are true enemies of Islam” and “Germans did not take it well that THY [Turkish Airlines] outperformed Lufthansa.”
Blasius said many messages included comments about Fethullah Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US and who has inspired a civil society movement in his name. One message even noted that the Israeli ambassador had attended an event organized by the Gülen movement.
Gülen, who is internationally acclaimed for his promotion of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and education, served as a spiritual leader and imam before moving to the US in 1999. He became a target of Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government following the eruption of a graft scandal that implicated Erdoğan’s inner circle in late 2013.
Erdoğan has accused the Gülen movement of operating a “parallel structure” of supporters in the judiciary and the police force who initiated the graft probes, while the movement denies the charge.
Turkish spies are said to have been ordered to spy on Erdoğan’s opponents in Germany, including members of the Kurdish minority, the faith-based Gülen movement and other Turkish nationals critical of the Turkish leadership.
According to court documents, the three were charged with tracking and spying on Turkish and Kurdish dissidents who would be detained upon returning to Turkey. Blasius said police had recovered many photographs from the communications, including some of demonstrations by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Bielefeld and Mannheim.
The suspects allegedly profiled Alevi groups in particular. One message was titled “Regarding a PKK and Alevi rally in Koln: German intelligence is supporting atheist Alevis and secular Kurds against Turkey with lots of money. They are swimming in a pool of money. German anarchists are supporting this rally as well.”
Gergerlioğlu also organized a social group, called the “New İstanbul Civilization (YİM),” on WhatsApp, with more than 50 participants, who exchanged information and photos. In his messages, Gergerlioğlu talked about setting up a wide intelligence network, stressing that all information exchanged within the group would be assessed by MİT. He said: “MİT infiltrated the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]. Foreign intelligence exposed that. The PKK is arming. Don’t worry; they will use it against ISIL.”
Gergerlioğlu was reportedly sent by MİT head Hakan Fidan with a fund of 25,000 euros to launch a consulting firm for German-Turkish companies in the city of Bad Dürkheim with Güler in 2011.
The indictment states that the suspects were engaged in acts of espionage for MİT. Ahmet Duran Y. and Güler were charged with collecting information about dissidents opposing Erdoğan in Germany under the leadership of Gergerlioğlu. They face a prison sentence of up to five years, according to German law.
The second witness to testify on Thursday was Police Chief Martin Müller of the Mainz Criminal Bureau. He said he examined the iPhone seized from Gergerlioğlu and found more than 300 documents in the phone’s memory. Among them were passport photographs belonging to British, Syrian, Iranian and Kazakhstani citizens, a list of names from various groups, including al-Qaeda, documents of arms trades between Israel and İstanbul, as well as various official letters and notifications addressed to and from Turkish prosecutors’ offices, governors, and members of the police force and gendarmerie.