Turkey encouraging teachers to spy in German schools: report

The Turkish government has urged teachers and parents in western Germany with Turkish roots to report any criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan they hear at schools, according to local media.

Turkey encouraging teachers to spy in German schools: report
A Turkish class in Cologne. Photo: DPA

The Turkish consulate in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) told parents and teachers at “information events” in Düsseldorf, Essen, Cologne und Münster in January that they should spy on classes at German schools, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) reported on Thursday.

Attendees were told to report any criticism of Erdogan they witnessed in schools to the consulate.

“We have heard from various different sources that people were told to report every piece of criticism of Turkey, which had been heard at schools in NRW, to the consulate ,” Sebastian Krebs, a spokesperson for the Union for Education and Science (GEW) said.

“The consulate also encouraged parents to tell their children to film teachers and pass on the evidence to Turkish authorities,” he added.

The GEW also claims to have been provided with syllabuses for classes on the Turkish language and culture which had been provided to teachers by the consulate.

“These syllabuses are heavily coloured by nationalism,” said Krebs.

Nefren Tuncay, vice Consul in Düsselforf, denied the accusation to The Local.

“The claim by the GEW that pupils were encouraged to film their teachers, or that it had anything to do with politics in Turkey, is not true,” she said.

According to Tuncay, the event was to do with discrimination children of a Turkish background face in school and constructive ways in which it can be tackled.

She added that the event was transparent and open to the public and that photos and minutes on its content are freely available online.

A representative of the Turkish Parents Association of Germany (Föted) had a slightly different explanation for the meeting.

Many parents with Turkish roots complain that the Turkish government is misrepresented in German schools, Ali Sak told WAZ.

“These parents don’t have anyone who they can talk to about this other than the consulate. The real reason they were invited was so that they could discuss this problem with the consulate and with parent associations,” he said.

This is not the first time in recent weeks Ankara has been accused of spying within Germany’s large ethnic Turkish population.

Earlier in February police raided the homes of four Turkish Muslim preachers on suspicion they spied for Erdogan's government.

The imams are accused of reporting on Turkish followers of US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for last July's failed coup attempt against him.


Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow

German police arrested a Russian scientist working at an unidentified university, accusing him of spying for Moscow, prosecutors said on Monday, in a case that risks further inflaming bilateral tensions.

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow
Vladimir Putin. Photo: dpa/AP | Patrick Semansky

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., had been taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of “working for a Russian secret service since early October 2020 at the latest”.

Ilnur N. was employed until the time of his arrest as a research assistant for a natural sciences and technology department at the unnamed German university.

German investigators believe he met at least three times with a member of Russian intelligence between October 2020 and this month. On two occasions he allegedly “passed on information from the university’s domain”.

He is suspected of accepting cash in exchange for his services.

German authorities searched his home and workplace in the course of the arrest.

The suspect appeared before a judge on Saturday who remanded him in custody.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Neither the German nor the Russian government made any immediate comment on the case.

However Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

Italy this month said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe needed to
protect itself from Russian “interference”. 

The move came after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police while selling confidential military documents leaked from his computer to a Russian embassy official.


The leaders of nine eastern European nations last month condemned what they termed Russian “aggressive acts” citing operations in Ukraine and “sabotage” allegedly targeted at the Czech Republic.

Several central and eastern European countries have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague but Russia has branded accusations of its involvement as “absurd” and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

The latest espionage case also comes at a time of highly strained relations between Russia and Germany on a number of fronts including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has moreover worked to maintain a sanctions regime over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the scene of ongoing fighting between pro-Russia separatists and local forces.

And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyberattacks on its soil.

The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that completely paralysed the computer network of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.

German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German man suspected of having passed the floor plans of parliament to Russian secret services in 2017.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week said Germany was expecting to be the target of Russian disinformation in the run-up to its general election in September, calling it “completely unacceptable”.

Russia denies being behind such activities.

Despite international criticism, Berlin has forged ahead with plans to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany.