Turkey’s intelligence agency, Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MIT), have expanded covert activities in Greece according to the Nordic Research Monitoring Network (Nordic Monitor). This is despite a tentative period of rapprochement between Athens and Ankara following the devastating earthquakes in Turkey that brought the two countries together.
Nordic Monitor says that it has obtained secret documents detailing MIT’s intelligence gathering activities in Greece. The documents purport to show efforts by MIT to locate members of the Gülen movement who fled to Greece.
The documents also allegedly contained the findings of Turkish intelligence operatives working to assess Greece’s security vulnerabilities and the status of key Greek strategic assets.
Turkey’s intelligence operations in Greece
Nordic Monitor claims that it obtained secret Turkish intelligence documents including a report dated March 2, 2023, that includes details on Turkey’s espionage activities in Greece.
The report apparently shows that “MIT intensified its spying and surveillance in Greece,” despite a supposed improvement in bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey in the weeks after the tragic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
MIT is Turkey’s main intelligence agency. Hakan Fidan is the agency’s current director. A former military officer and diplomat, Fidan is also a close confidant of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
MIT apparently disclosed the report to the Security General Directorate (Emniyet), which subsequently circulated the details to police departments in various regions on March 8, 2023, for further processing of the intelligence.
Police chief Salih Yıldırım at the Security General Directorate signed and stamped the cover letter as secret, cautioning provincial police departments to handle the information with extreme caution.
Yıldırım urged that the information in the documents should only be shared on a “need to know basis” and “not… with any unauthorized persons or agencies.”
Followers of the Gülen movement targeted
According to Nordic Monitor, the picture painted by the leaked documents is that the main purpose of the Turkish intelligence presence in Greece is to gather information on members of the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen and his followers were blamed by Erdoğan for the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. Since then, the Gülen movement has been designated a terrorist organization in Turkey.
The secret documents included a list naming hundred of suspected members of the Gülen movement who had fled to Greece to avoid the crackdown which ensued in Turkey after events the events of 2016.
In the past, Ankara has demanded the extradition of individuals who sought asylum in Greece after the attempted coup. This included a demand in 2018 for the extradition of eight soldiers alleged to have taken part in the coup who later sought sanctuary in Greece.
Spying on Greek strategic assets
The documents also allegedly detailed covert activities aimed at producing intelligence on Greek strategic assets and military preparedness.
MIT were especially interested in uncovering the degree of support provided to Greece by its allies, especially the US. The main focus of Turkey’s intelligence activities in this regard appears to have been on the region of Thrace, which is where Greece shares a land border with Turkey.
It remains to be seen if or how the Greek or Turkish governments will respond to the alleged intelligence leak.