Author: Chase Winter
Posted on: DW.com | December 14th, 2017
An investigative report links Ankara to a boxing gang in Germany accused of going after opponents of the Turkish government. The report ties a Turkish MP close to President Erdogan to violent criminal activity.
A Turkish parliamentarian has provided money to a boxing gang in Germany to buy weapons, organize protests and go after critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German media reported on Wednesday.
Metin Kulunk, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and close confidant of Erdogan, directly and indirectly provided money to the Turkish nationalist Osmanen Germania, according to research by Frontal 21, an investigative news program on public broadcaster ZDF and the daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten.
The investigation was based on German police phone taps and surveillance of the group leaked to the news organizations. It suggests a relationship between Osmanen Germania and Kulunk, as well as the Turkish intelligence agency MIT, the AKP’s European lobby and Erdogan himself.
Osmanen Germania describes itself as a boxing club and “brotherhood,” but authorities have long suspected it of being involved in criminal activity and violence. It is estimated to have 20 chapters and 2,500 members in Germany. One of Kulunk’s main contacts was Mehmet Bagci, the former head of Osmanen Germania who has been in pre-trial detention in Germany since 2016. Another key figure was the group’s vice president, Selcuk Sahin, who is also detained.
According to police investigations, Osmanen Germania was instructed by Kulunk to go after Kurds and critics of Erdogan living in Germany. He also allegedly organized protests against last year’s Armenian genocide resolution passed by the German parliament.
Going after Kurds
Phone taps indicate that Kulunk instructed Turks in Germany to “hit Kurds over the head with sticks,” film the act and provide videos to the Turkish state to be used as a “deterrent” against Erdogan’s critics.
Bagci bragged of “very good contacts” who could put him in touch with the MIT intelligence agency and that his men could take care of “that PKK thing,” referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.The “PKK thing” was an April 2016 Kurdish demonstration in Stuttgart that led to a massive brawl between Turks and Kurds, leaving some 50 German police injured.
According to German police investigations, Bagci pledged to one of Erdogan’s chief advisors that he would fight on Turkey’s behalf against “terrorists” in Germany. German authorities have for some time worried about conflict between the Ottoman Germania and Bahoz (Storm), a rival Kurdish gang.
Protests, guns and punishment
In June 2016, specialists from the Hamburg criminal office observed Kulunk personally hand Bagci two envelopes in Berlin. The envelopes were believed to be full of money. Moments later Kulunk called Erdogan and organized protests against the Armenian genocide resolution in the German parliament. Osmanen Germania participated in the protests.
The police investigations suggest Osmanen Germania has contact with the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), the AKP’s external lobby group. In one tapped phone conversation, Kulunk urged the former head of the UETD in Mannheim, Yilmaz Ilkay Arin, to get Osmanen Germania to punish German comedian Jan Böhmermann for his controversial poem criticizing Erdogan.
Böhmermann was warned, put under police protection and spent several weeks outside of Germany. In other phone conversations with Turks living in Germany, Arin encouraged them to arm themselves, saying that he could facilitate “clean” weapons. A police report also showed that Bagci in June 2016 ordered 10 handguns from a Serbian living in Germany.
The investigative report highlights that “the long arm of Erdogan has not disappeared in Germany,” said Green Party co-chair Cem Özdemir. German criminal investigators in multiple federal states are intensely monitoring Osmanen Germania.
Critics of Turkey and pro-Kurdish organizations “are the object of Osmanen Germania’s threats,” Burkhard Freier, the head of the North Rhine-Westphalia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told ZDF. “When it comes to disputes, then they don’t shy away from violence.”
‘German deep state’ operation
Kulunk did not respond to the German media requests for comment, but in a series of tweets he lambasted “fictional reports” and threats against Turks living in Europe. He also condemned threats and repression against “civil society” organizations in Germany.
“Everybody knows Germany’s open and hidden support for PKK and the FETO. The German deep state’s media operations are futilely trying to target me and Turkish civil society organizations to cover up their support for terrorist groups,” he wrote in one of 16 tweets on the allegations. FETO refers to the movement led by Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup attempt.
UETD condemned the Frontal 21 and Stuttgarter Nachrichten investigation as not reflecting the truth and amounting to “slander.” “We view this program as part of a campaign to denounce UETD and which seeks to legally marginalize and silence the critical voice of the Turkish community,” UETD said in a statement.