Responding to a question in parliament submitted by the opposition Left Party, the German government confirmed foreign and domestic intelligence agencies had contact with members of Fetullah Gulen’s group.
The German government admitted on Tuesday that its spy agencies still maintain contact with members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), which orchestrated a failed coup in Turkey in 2016.
Responding to a question in parliament submitted by the opposition Left Party, the government confirmed Berlin’s ongoing contact with US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen’s group and his followers, who are often referred to as Gulenists.
But Berlin declined to provide any information about these contacts, arguing that doing so could reveal sources and undermine the functional capability of the spy agencies, referring to the country’s foreign intelligence agency the BND and domestic intelligence agency the BfV.
Left Party lawmaker Ulla Jelpke sharply criticised the government for hiding information from parliament and stressed that Berlin’s continued talks with FETO, mainly through its intelligence organisations, was an alarming development.
“It very much looks like the German government wants to keep its contacts with the Gulen network to have influence in a post-Erdogan Turkey. Until then, German intelligence organisations would like to benefit from the confidential information acquired by this movement through a decades-long campaign to infiltrate state institutions and through illegal eavesdropping,” she said.
FETO-linked groups, often referred to as Gulenists or the Hizmet movement in Germany, have long denied having a hidden agenda or pursuing any political goals and claim that they were only working for inter-religious dialogue, education and cultural projects.
But court cases in Turkey accused FETO and its leaders of building a secretive hierarchical structure and managed to infiltrate the key institutions of the military, police and judiciary to take control of the state.
FETO is classified as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its coup attempt in 2016 left 251 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured.
The German government’s tolerance towards the group and its reluctance to extradite key FETO suspects to Turkey has been a major source of tension between Berlin and Ankara in recent years.
Since the 1990s, Gulenists have managed to build a large network in Germany, and the group claims to have around 70,000 followers in the country.
Around 14,000 people with suspected ties to FETO have also arrived in the country after the failed putsch in Turkey, according to local reports.