Turkish government tracking down regime critics in Sweden

1:21 min

Turkey's government is trying to identify and track down supporters of the opposition Gülen Movement in Sweden, a recording obtained by Swedish Radio has shown.

Swedish Radio has obtained a recording of Özer Eken, chairman of a lobby organisation with links to Turkey's ruling AKP party, attempting to force a member of the Gülen Movement into providing information on other supporters.

The Gülen Movement, named after Fethullah Gülen, is also known as Hizmet or Jamaat. 

What I can tell you is that if you help the state, the state is going to help you," Eken said in the recording, which Swedish Radio received from an anonymous source.

Turkey's president Recep Tayip Erdogan launched a crack-down on the Gülen movement last July, blaming the movement's leader, Turkish preacher and writer Fethullah Gülen, for orchestrating an attempted coup by army officers. 

The Gülen movement promotes a moderate version of Islam with a heavy emphasis on public service. The movement runs schools and universities in 180 countries.

Eken claims to be a personal friend of Turkish prime minister Binali Yıldırım, and is chairman of UETD, AKP's lobby organisation in Sweden.

In the conversation, Eken threatened the Swedish Gülen supporter that there would be reprisals if he did not give some concrete information on Gülenist activity in Sweden.

"Brother, they will want to have access to all activity going on here. If you do not give them something concrete, you are finished," he said.

He told him that his name had been added to a list of regime critics and that he risked arrest should he ever visit Turkey. He also said that he could have his wife arrested in Turkey.

You are going to be arrested, but your wife will be arrested too," Eken said. "they are going to take you your wife as a hostage." 

When Swedish Radio confronted Eken with the recording, he said that it was not his voice. Swedish Radio has been able to prove that it is Eken's voice on the recording.

 This is not an isolated case. According to Swedish Radio's sources, other people working for the Turkish state in Sweden are involved in the mapping of government critics. This includes the Turkish embassy in Stockholm and imams working in Turkish mosques in Sweden.

Emre Oguz, a former Turkish journalist, now working as a teacher in the south of Sweden, chose to speak openly:

"The Imams (who are paid by the presidency of religious affairs, Diyanet) must report about people who go to the mosque. I know that. I've talked to imams before the coup attempt. It was a special task for them. Imams who do not want to report are themseleves reported. So now all imams follow directives from Turkey," he said.

But after the coup, he said the reports have changed.

"After the coup the reports became more detailed and focused on all opposition groups. And now they write about people directly. For example, who is Emre, what does he do, who works with Emre?

He tolds Swedish Radio that the consequences of being reported are harder than before.

"Previously, Ankara nor the Diyanet (Turkish religious authoirty) used to do anything on the basis of these reports. Now though they are doing many things. For example, if there is a report about you and you go to Turkey, they can arrest you immediately upon arrival."

Emre Oguz is convinced that he is on one of the lists of traitors who would be arrested on arrival in Turkey.

"Yes, absolutely. People close to the AKP have told me directly. They say they reported me to the embassy. If I go to Turkey, I am sure that they will arrest me and I will not be able to come back to Sweden."

Ove Bring, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Stockholm University, said that Eken's activities could qualify as refugee espionage. 

"It's against Swedish law, there's no doubt about that," he told news agency TT. "In addition, it's against international law. It's important to point that out. To have foreign agents on Swedish territory transgresses Swedish law."