Germany investigates 20 for alleged spying for Turkey

Germany is investigating 20 people for allegedly spying on followers of an exiled preacher targeted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Germany investigates 20 for alleged spying for Turkey
The DITIB mosque in Fürthen has been searched as part of a spy investigation. Photo: DPA

“At the moment, a total of 20 accused and persons unknown are under investigation over suspicions that they worked as secret service agents on the orders of the Turkish government, and spied on followers of the Gulen movement,” said Germany's interior ministry in a written reply to a query by an opposition Left party lawmaker.

Erdogan blames US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for a failed coup last July, and has launched a sweeping crackdown against his followers.

Gulen has denied all accusations, but more than 41,000 people in Turkey have been arrested over suspected links to his movement.

German prosecutors last month announced a probe into claims that Turkish agents have been spying on Gulen's followers in Germany.

They have also launched an investigation into the actions of Turkish imams suspected of acting as spies under Ankara's orders.

The interior ministry did not specify in its parliamentary reply if the 20 under probe included the imams.

But the investigation of the Muslim preachers had followed raids in February on the homes of four Turkish imams who are believed to have passed on information about Gulen followers to the Turkish consulate.

Relations between NATO allies Germany and Turkey have been strained by disputes related to last July's failed coup and a subsequent crackdown on alleged conspirators.

The row deepened after Germany and the Netherlands blocked campaign events by Turkish ministers in March ahead of a referendum vote to boost presidential powers.

In an angry response, Erdogan accused both countries of using “Nazi” methods, sparking consternation in Berlin.


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.