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Alleged Turkish spy goes on trial in Germany for monitoring Kurds

Mehmet Fatih Sayan

Mehmet Fatih Sayan, who is believed to have been working for Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), is going on trial on Thursday in Hamburg on charges of monitoring Kurdish people living in Germany, Deutsche Welle reported.

Sayan, who came to the attention of German authorities in last November after Yüksel Koç, co-chair of the European Kurdish Democratic Societies Congress, informed them about Sayan’s espionage activities. Sayan was arrested by the German police in Hamburg on December 15, 2016.

Koç, who spoke to Martin Knobbe from Der Spiegel, said he received several notes from agents revealing that he was on the hit list of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

While there is not sufficient evidence to claim that Sayan was planning to murder Koç, Sayan himself mentioned MIT’s plan to assassinate Koç and Kongra-Gel Co-chair Remzi Kartal during his interrogation. He also said that MIT was planning an attack against Cem Özdemir, the national co-chair of the Green Party.

Sayan said in his statement: “I am an agent, Turkish intelligence sent me to Germany to surveil Kurdish institutions and gather information, but I am not a hitman.”

Knobbe wrote on Wednesday in Der Spiegel that Sayan did not act like a professional spy in that he revealed his real name and sent communications that were not encrypted.

It was previously leaked to the public that Turkish Intelligence operatives had also been surveilling members of the Gülen movement in Germany, accused by the Turkish government of mounting a coup attempt last summer.

The German Interior Ministry in March launched an investigation into whether MİT has been spying on suspected supporters of the Gülen movement in Germany.

Speaking in Passau in southern Germany in March, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said it was a “criminal offense” to carry out espionage activities on German soil and that they “will not be tolerated by us.”

“That applies to all foreign states and all intelligence services,” he added.

“We have repeatedly told Turkey that something like this is unacceptable. No matter what position someone may have on the Gülen movement, here German jurisdiction applies, and citizens will not be spied on by foreign countries,” he said.

According to reports in the German media, the head of Turkey’s MİT, Hakan Fidan, handed Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), a list of 300 individuals and 200 organizations allegedly linked to the Gülen movement at a security conference in Munich in February, aiming to persuade German authorities to help Turkey.

However, German authorities have informed Turks linked with the Gülen movement about MİT surveillance in Germany.

Commenting to BBC on the issue in March, Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt fuer Verfassungsschutz), said, “Outside Turkey I don’t think anyone believes that the Gülen movement was behind the attempted putsch.”

“At any rate I don’t know anyone outside Turkey who has been convinced by the Turkish government,” he added.

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