* German, Swiss, Austrian probes under way on Turkish spying
* Documents released by Austrian MP show larger operations
* Reports include addresses of supporters of Erdogan foe
By Shadia Nasralla and Francois Murphy
VIENNA, March 31 Turkish embassies on four
continents submitted reports on alleged foreign-based opponents
of President Tayyip Erdogan within a week of receiving a request
from Ankara last September, according to documents released by
an Austrian lawmaker.
The papers made public by opposition Greens politician Peter
Pilz suggested a wider intelligence network than has so far been
revealed by authorities investigating alleged spying by Turkey
on its expatriates in three European countries.
"There is clearly a global network of informants. We cannot
say exactly how long it took to build up this network. I assume
that it happened in a matter of years," Pilz told reporters.
A senior Turkish government official said: "These claims are
Tensions are running high between Turkey and the European
Union as Ankara tries to drum up support among expatriate Turks
to vote 'yes' in a referendum on April 16 on whether to grant
Erdogan sweeping new powers.
German, Austrian and Swiss authorities have all launched
investigations into whether Turkey is conducting illegal
espionage on their soil.
Countries routinely post intelligence officers in their
embassies, and the European authorities have not said in what
ways the alleged Turkish activity went beyond acceptable levels
of information-gathering by a foreign power.
Among the documents released by Pilz was a written call on
Sept. 20, using the letterheads of the prime minister's office
and the state religious authority Diyanet, for information on
supporters of Erdogan's arch-enemy Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey has accused Gulen of masterminding a failed coup
attempt last July and has purged state institutions, schools,
universities and the media of tens of thousands of suspected
Gulen supporters. The cleric denies any involvement.
The documents, which Pilz said he had received from a
Turkish source, showed embassies in over 30 countries across
Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia sent reports to Diyanet on
alleged Gulenists. Most were filed by religious attaches in
Turkish embassies or consulates.
NAMES AND ADDRESSES
They typically listed the names and addresses of alleged
Gulenists, as well as of publishing houses, media groups,
educational centres and schools deemed to support the exiled
cleric. Some reports include information on family members and
the educational background of targeted people.
Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the
documents, but a source close to Austria's government said it
was safe to assume the ones on Austria were genuine.
Some reports, such as the one from Nigeria, include the
names of middlemen responsible for building up ties between
Gulenists and local power centres.
In the Austrian report, a Turkish official in Salzburg says
an Austrian mosque umbrella group and other organisations have
destroyed books, audio material, videos and newspapers deemed to
The official says some gaps left by disappearing Gulenist
organisations have been successfully filled with
Erdogan-friendly replacements, such as after-school clubs.
A report from Azerbaijan names a journalist and some
parliamentarians as sources of information on Gulenists. It
names the director of a Turkish high school in Baku who will be
reminded about the need to remove Gulenist teachers at his
An Australian report refers to "people who have lived in
Australia for a long time and who know (the Gulenist) structure
very well". An entry from Mongolia describes activity by alleged
Gulenists on Facebook and Twitter.
Turkey has rejected previous accusations that it was using
religious bodies in Europe to spy on Erdogan critics.
In March, the religious attache of Turkey's embassy in
Austria told a local newspaper that mosque groups had a duty to
check whether people of Turkish origin in Austria had been
"radicalised" by Gulen. He said it was legitimate to deliver
reports on such people.
(Additional reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Mark