22:50 GMT +326 September 2017
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    US based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

    Germany Opens Probe Into Spying by Turkish Nationals on Gulen's Followers

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    German authorities have opened an investigation into 20 Turkish nationals who are suspected of conducting espionage activities on followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen in Germany, local media reported Thursday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The 20 Turkish nationals, along with several unknown persons, are suspected of spying on Gulen's followers in Germany at the request of Turkish government, the Die Welt newspaper reported, citing a reply on the matter, obtained by the newspaper, of the German government received by a Die Linke party lawmaker.

    The "unacceptable careless approach" of the government toward the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) resulted in spies' ability to return to Turkey and avoid criminal prosecution, Die Linke lawmaker Sevim Dagdelen told the newspaper.

    DITIB, established in 1984 in Cologne, is one of the largest Islamic religious organizations in Germany, and has imams and religious teachers sent from Turkey. The organization funds 900 mosques across the country. According to the statistics presented on its website, the association represents over 70 percent of Muslims living in Germany.

    In February, the homes of four Turkish imams and members of DITIB were raided on the suspicion that they had been spying on community members and German teachers in order to detect Gulen's supporters.

    The July 15 Turkish military coup attempt has been blamed by Ankara on Gulen, who has been living in the United States since 1999, and his followers. Since July, Turkey has arrested hundreds of military personnel, activists and journalists on suspicion of links with Gulen.

    Relations between Turkey and a number of European countries, including Germany, have worsened recently after several pro-referendum rallies held by Turkish officials, aimed at gaining support from Turkish citizens living abroad, were canceled in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Following such bans, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared German, and later, Dutch, authorities to Nazis.

    Related:

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    investigation, Fethullah Gulen, Germany, Turkey
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