The trial against the 32-year-old suspect Mehmet Fatih S. opened on Thursday in Hamburg and will last at least until the middle of October, according to the court. His full name has been withheld in accordance with German law.
German prosecutors say that the Turkish man has worked for the Turkish intelligence service since 2013. Between September 2015 and his arrest in December 2016, his mission was allegedly to spy on the Kurdish community in Germany, focusing on Kurds based in Bremen.
The Turkish MIT agency allegedly paid the man 30,000 euros ($35,800) for his services. Mehmet Fatih S. is said to have moved to the northern city of Bremen in January 2016 to get closer to Kurdish politician Yuksel Koc. There, he spoke to Koc's acquaintances and gathered information online to learn more details about his life, posing as a reporter for a Kurdish TV broadcaster.
Yuksel Koc 'always a target'
At the time, Koc was the chairman of the Federation of Kurdish Associations in Germany. Mehmet Fatih S. used his cover as a reporter to conduct three interviews with Koc. Koc said that the man was informing on his "every move" in an interview conducted by DW. He also reported receiving death threats via text messages, including one that said "You will always be a target for us, until you are dead."
Koc has since become deputy head of a Europe-wide Kurdish organization.
According to Germany's public broadcasters NDR and WDR, the scheme was discovered when a woman from a "close personal circle" of the alleged spy decided to speak up. She reportedly addressed a Kurdish newspaper, providing documents, photos and logs connected to the case.
She later provided German authorities with the same information. The records indicate an assassination conspiracy that allegedly involves two other Turkish agents. The woman is now under police protection.
Mehmet Fatih S. allegedly kept in touch with his handlers in Turkey via email and also traveled there twice in 2016. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
Berlin and Ankara have been clashing diplomatically in recent years, with tensions escalating rapidly after the failed coup in Turkey last summer. Turkey has accused several German citizens of spying for Germany or Kurdish armed groups on Turkey's soil. In March 2017, Germany's domestic intelligence agency BfV reported a "significant increase in intelligence efforts by Turkey in Germany."
dj/ng (AFP, dpa)