Turkey has arrested four spies working on behalf of France, journalists Abdurrahman Şimşek and Nazif Karaman of Sabah daily reported in a piece published Monday.
According to the investigation by the journalists, the four suspects were collecting information about the inner workings of conservative foundations, religious groups and Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs and its employees.
The reporters said in the piece that the suspects used fake ID cards purportedly belonging to agents from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and claimed that they were collecting information regarding Daesh and similar terrorist groups.
The institutions they gathered information from include the Women and Democracy Foundation (KADEM), Sadaka Taşı humanitarian relief agency and the Pioneering Youth Foundation, which once came under a bombing attack by the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) terrorist group.
According to the report, one of the suspects is Metin Özdemir, who contacted the French military during a mission as a Turkish soldier in Afghanistan. Özdemir first decided to be a legionnaire. After the military service, Özdemir returned to Turkey and started working at the Consulate-General of France in Istanbul as security personnel.
In 2013, Özdemir met a person codenamed “Bruno,” who had close ties with French intelligence service, the General Directorate for External Security. Bruno reportedly said that he could help him pursue his goal of being a legionnaire but Özdemir would have to collect some information first.
According to his own testimony, Özdemir gathered information regarding 120 people – including imams – and conveyed it to French authorities.
Later on, he contacted two more people with ties to French intelligence and started receiving orders from those two “case officers.”
Identifying the officers as “Virginia” and “Sebastian,” he said that he did not know what their surnames were, they were communicating over pay phones and he was well aware that he was conducting espionage.
He was first paid 300 euros ($337), which was later increased two-fold.
According to his testimony, Özdemir was ordered to spy on conservative-leaning foundations in Istanbul’s Fati Bayrampaşa, Esenyurt, Zeytinburnu, Üsküdar, Ümraniye and Başakşehir districts, and was also threatened by the French. He threatened them back, saying he would leave France in a difficult position if he were to confess.
Later on, he included three different people in his espionage activities. Özdemir told municipal employee Lütfü Yılmaz, hotel owner Salih Cemal Yiğit and phone trader Faysal Tambahçeci that they would be working on behalf of the MİT against terrorist groups such as Daesh, showing them his fake ID card for better persuasion.
The four suspects will be tried on the grounds of political and military espionage.