Turkish Espionage and Assassination Accusations Ramp Up Tensions With Europe

On 12 December, Greek authorities arrested two men that they subsequently accused of spying on Greek military facilities and personnel for Turkey. The men – the secretary/translator of the Turkish consulate on Rhodes and a cook on a local ferry line – are both Greek Muslims originally from Western Thrace.

According to the Greek authorities, the two men colluded to gather information on the Greek military in Rhodes and throughout the Aegean, which was then passed onto the Turkish intelligence service, the MIT.

Amongst the material allegedly gathered were several thousand photographs, including some of Greek Navy submarines. Both men are now facing charges for espionage, which they deny.

News has also emerged that further investigations by the Greek authorities into the affair have discovered what local sources describe as an espionage network involving more than 15 suspects.

The accusations come against a backdrop of deep grievances between Greece and Turkey. In August a Turkish ship began an oil-and-gas survey in waters close to Rhodes that are claimed by both countries. This resulted in one of the vessel’s escorts being rammed by a Greek frigate and several mock-dogfights between the two countries respective air forces.

It has also led to the Greeks making an emergency purchase of French Rafale fighter aircraft to counter what it sees as Turkish aggression.

The Turkish intelligence service is also gaining increased attention for their actions in other parts of Europe. Already suspected of several killings there, including the murder of three women in Paris in 2013, a row is now ongoing with Austria where a man alleging he was blackmailed by the MIT to murder a member of the Austrian parliament handed himself into police.

The would-be assassin also stated during interrogation that several other Austrian politicians were scheduled for killing because of their criticism of Turkish president, Recep Erdoğan. Though the allegations were denied by the Turkish Embassy in Vienna, Austrian police have taken the threat seriously enough to assign permanent protective details to some of those considered under threat.