Did Turkey order spying in German classrooms?
Authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) have asked prosecutors to assess whether there is enough evidence to open an investigation into allegations Turkish consulates urged parents and teachers to inform on any content in school lessons that is critical of the Turkish government, a spokesperson from the NRW interior minister told DW on Thursday.
The Education and Science Labor Union (GEW), which represents educators, said on Thursday that it had received reports from some members that Turkish consulates in Germany's most populous state instructed Turkish teachers and parents to spy on other teachers and inform on the content of instruction.
GEW said parents, members of teaching associations and imams from mosques affiliated with the Turkish government had been invited by consulates in the state to information sessions, during which they were urged to pass on any lesson content that was critical of the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Even students may have been urged to spy on teachers.
The allegations come as the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), Germany's largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government's Directorate of Religion, is under fire for some of its imams spying on suspected supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Ankara blames Gulen members for last July's failed coup attempt and considers the group a terrorist organization, charges the group's millions of members around the world deny.
NRW's ministry of education has already identified five people on the lists prepared by imams as state-employed teachers. Based on documents from Turkish diplomatic missions, DW has reported of a broader Turkish effort to collect information on the Gulen movement in Germany and across Europe.
NRW Interior Ministry spokesman Jörg Harm said the state's justice and security authorities have taken precautions and had been informed of allegations brought forward by GEW.
"If the allegations against the consulates in Dusseldorf and Essen and possibly other consulates are verified, this would be absolutely unacceptable," Harm said.
On Friday, the Turkish consulates in Essen and Dusseldorf denied the allegations, saying the meetings with teachers and parents were strictly about educational issues.
Responding to the allegations on Twitter, Green Party co-chair Cem Özdemir - who has Turkish roots - was highly critical.
"Erdogan propaganda has no place in German schools. The entire spy network must be dismantled." Özdemir said.