By Ayhan Simsek
Germany on Monday signaled a tougher stance on the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the July 2016 defeated coup in Turkey.
“In view of the information available to us, we cannot rule out that the members of Gulen movement were involved in the coup attempt in Turkey,” the German Foreign Ministry said in response to a question by Anadolu Agency.
The remarks mark a significant shift in Berlin’s stance towards the group, which has had a large network among Germany’s immigrant population.
Last year, German intelligence (BND) chief Bruno Kahl drew heavy criticism from Turkish politicians after saying that they were not yet convinced of FETO’s role in the attempted military takeover.
He also spoke positively about the group’s activities.
Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that, almost two years after the coup attempt, German authorities no longer see the group as a moderate religious sect.
The newsweekly published excerpts from a recent confidential German Foreign Ministry report in which a senior German diplomat in Ankara referred to warnings by a Turkish official and underlined FETO’s dangerous character.
“The conspiratorial part of the movement is characterized by a strict hierarchy, and its structure resembles that of an organized crime group,” the report said.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
The terror organization carried out a long-running campaign in Turkey in an attempt tried to infiltrate key state institutions, including the military, police, and judiciary.
In Germany, which is home to more than 3 million Turkish immigrants, FETO members have tried to avoid public criticism and have focused on "interfaith dialogue" programs, sticking to “moderate” messages, with the goal of winning the trust of media, influential churches, and political institutions.
The group claims to have around 70,000 followers on German soil.
Nearly 4,000 suspected FETO members have come to Germany since the defeated coup in Turkey, according to the group members' statements in local media.