Germany becomes magnet for hundreds of fugitive FETO suspects


German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere admited that hundreds of FETO suspects with diplomatic or service passports have applied for asylum in Germany since the failed July 15 coup attempt in 2016 in Turkey which orchestrated by US-based Fetullah Gülen.

A total of 615 Turkish citizens with diplomatic or service passports have applied for asylum in Germany since the foiled coup attempt in Turkey last year, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said.

"Through the end of this August, 250 individuals with diplomatic passports and 365 individuals with service passports have submitted asylum applications," de Maiziere said in an interview with German daily Rhein Zeitung on Monday.

"These numbers also include family members of the diplomats and service passport holders. That is a sizeable but not an extremely high number," he added.

De Maiziere gave no details about the professions of these asylum-seekers, but government officials told local media earlier that ex-soldiers and former diplomats were among them and that most were accused by the Turkish authorities of having ties with those behind the coup.

The attempted July 2016 military takeover, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured, was orchestrated by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen.

After the foiled coup, several Turkish military officers stationed at NATO bases in Germany disobeyed orders from Ankara to return home.

Several ex-soldiers and former officials with suspected FETO ties also came to Germany from neighboring countries or Turkey, and applied for asylum.

Despite repeated requests by Ankara to return FETO suspects to Turkey for trial, the German authorities have so far turned down such requests, arguing that Ankara must first provide sound legal evidence.

De Maiziere said on Monday that each asylum application is evaluated by the German authorities on its own merits, based on the rule of law and applicable legislation.

Ties between Turkey and Germany have been strained since last year, as Turkish leaders slammed Germany for not showing strong solidarity with Ankara against the July 15 coup attempt, and for turning a blind eye to the continued activities of FETO in the country.

Germany, which is home to three million Turkish immigrants, is among the countries where FETO has managed to organize a large network, including dozens of businesses, private schools, as well as media organizations.

Since last year's coup attempt, nearly 4,000 suspected FETO members have come to Germany, according to group members' statements on local media.

The group, which is also known as Gulenists in the country, claims to have around 70,000 followers on German soil.

Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

Despite widespread suspicions, German authorities had been reluctant so far to curb the activities of Gulenists in the country, and underlined that they would only act if they get concrete evidence suggesting that these institutions are carrying out activities that violate the country's Constitution and laws.

Gulenists in Germany have taken care not to attract public criticism and have particularly focused on interfaith dialogue programs, giving moderate messages to win the trust of the media, influential churches, and political institutions.

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