Turkey withdraws imams accused of spying in Germany

Turkey, Germany, DITIB, Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, Angela Merkel, Spying

Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs has recalled the imams allegedly carrying out illegal profiling on behalf of the Turkish government in Germany.

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), a branch of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs and one of the largest Islamic organisations in Germany, made a statement on Friday saying they had made the decision in order to avoid damaging the 40-year relationship between Turkey and Germany. The organisation denied that it had received orders from the Turkish government to compile lists across its 970 mosques.

An investigation has been launched by Germany’s chief prosecutor regarding allegations that Turkey employed the imams sent to DITIB in Germany to gather information on followers of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania based cleric accused of being the mastermind behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey last year.

German Chancellor Merkel reportedly brought up the issue, which has caused tensions between the two countries, during her visit to Turkey last week.

The interior minister of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), Ralf Jäger, where DITIB is based, said 50 cases of intimidation against Gulen supporters and facilities affiliated to his movement had registered in his region following the coup attempt.

Turkey has also come under criticism for its employment of intelligence agents. According to German daily Die Welt some 800 regular agents are employed in Europe as well as 6,000 informants in Germany who are “menacing” and putting pressure on “German Turks.”