German police have raided the apartments of four imams suspected of being spies for the Turkish government.
The imams are accused of collecting information about opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen of being behind a failed military coup in July.
“The individuals are suspected of having collected information about members of the so-called Gulen movement and passed it on to the general consulate in Cologne,” the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said in a statement Wednesday.
The imams are members of the Cologne-based Ditib, Germany’s largest association of mosques. The group, which is controlled by Erdogan and includes more than 900 mosques, serves Germany’s large Turkish community.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the Turkish government’s influence over the mosques is alarming.
“It is very clear that the influence of the Turkish state on Ditib is big,” Maas in a statement. “The association must plausibly disengage itself from Ankara.”
An Austrian lawmaker accused Turkey of operating a similar informer network in the country.
“The ATIB umbrella group is an instrument of hard, ruthless and, in my view, legally unacceptable Turkish government politics in Austria,” Peter Pilz of the Green Party said Tuesday, according to Reuters.
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