Ditib, a key Turkish Muslim network inside Germany, has denied spying on Gulen movement supporters ostracized by President Tayyip Erdogan. Ditib says its 970 mosques never received instructions to compile lists.
The denial from the Cologne-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Ditib) was carried late Monday by KNA, the Catholic news agency in Bonn.
Preachers or imams at Ditib mosques in Germany have over decades been trained in Turkey and had their salaries paid by Diyanet, the religious affairs presidium attached to the office of Turkey's prime minister.
Ditib said it had no party-political ties and neither its main office, nor its regional branches, nor its communities had received [Turkish] instructions to spy on adherents of the "Hizmet" [Service], the movement the US-exile cleric Fethullah Gulen.
"On the contrary: a clear instruction has been sent to all mosques that our mosques and prayer are open for everyone and that our mosques are places of spirituality, not political polemic," said Ditib, which also provides social services to members.
Erdogan accuses Germany
Since Turkey's failed July 15 coup, Erdogan's administration has purged Gulen supporters from Turkish state institutions. Erdogan has demanded that the USA extradite Gulen, who denies instigating the bid and accused Germany of harboring "terror groups."
Last month, Ditib's spokesman in Cologne, Zekeriya Altug said Germany's diverse religious faiths each had the right to define standards for pastoral care of their members.
Germany has some three million residents of Turkish origin, stemming mainly from industrial recruitment in the 1960s. About half of them have German citizenship.
Letter sent to Turkish missions
The "Frankfurter Rundschau" (FR) newspaper, citing the newspaper "Cumhuriyet," which is critical of the Turkish president said Turkish foreign missions had been told by Diyanet in a letter sent to all Turkish foreign missions to provide "detailed reports."
"Cumhuriyet" claimed to have obtained lists showing purported Gulen supporters opposed to Erdogan compiled by Ditib preachers in Germany.
FR said it had unconfirmed reports that Gulen supporters no longer had access to Ditib mosques.
Ali Ertan Toprak, the chairman of the Kurdish community in Germany, told Deutschlandfunk public radio on Monday: "Imams posted to Ditib mosques in Germany are Turkish civil servants."
"And they are also utilized to control the Muslim communities they look after and to report critical remarks to the [Turkish] state," Toprak said. "And these are Stasi methods. That should not be allowed in Germany," he added, referring to the former East German intelligence service.
On December 5, in remarks to KNA in Düsseldorf, Ercan Karakoyun, the chairman of a Gulen-related education trust, claimed: "Every imam functions concurrently as an informant for Turkey."
"Anyone who doesn't go along, risks his job," Karakoyun said, adding that numerous Ditib imams had quit and had applied for asylum in Germany.
"They don't want to participate in Erdogan's campaign of hate," said Karakoyun, who is also a member of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Early this month, Ralf Jäger, the interior minister of Germany's most populous state North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), said 50 cases of intimidation against Hizmet facilities and activists had been registered in his region.
At a Ditib mosque in Hagen, police had discovered a placard with the slogan "traitors [stay] out."
Turkey's MIT active in Germany
In August, the widely-read German newspaper "Die Welt" said Germans of Turkish origin were being "menaced" in Germany by informers and officers of Turkey's Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT) national intelligence agency.
Ankara had some 800 regular agents in Europe as well as 6,000 informants in Germany who were putting pressure on "German Turks," the newspaper reported, quoting security sources.
ipj/jm (KNA, dradio, AFP, Reuters)