German intelligence is reportedly considering putting the Turkish-state-backed Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) under official surveillance, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and public broadcasters NDR and WDR reported.
According to Deutsche Welle (DW), the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has sent a confidential dossier on DİTİB to each of Germany’s 16 states.
DİTİB operates more than 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which provides financing and imams for the mosques. Since a foiled 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, DİTİB has been accused of acting as the long arm of the Turkish state in Germany.
Last year German authorities investigated 19 imams alleged to have acted on the orders of Turkish diplomatic posts to spy on followers of Gülen movement.
Turkish authorities accuse the Gülen movement of orchestrating the coup attempt, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.
After the abortive putsch, the Turkish government started a crackdown on followers of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric who has resided in the US since 1999.
Last year, the head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that Gülen was behind the failed coup.
The possible move against DİTİB comes before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrives in Germany for a state visit during which he will officially open DİTİB’s new central mosque in the city of Cologne at the end of his visit scheduled for Sept. 28 and 29.
However, some states are cautioning against putting DİTİB under surveillance.
“We strongly advise against it,” one state security official told DW, adding that the political risks would be enormous if DİTİB were labeled an enemy of the constitutional order.
The Foreign Ministry is reportedly “not enthusiastic” about the idea.