A probe targeting Turkish imams in Germany on the grounds that they were spying for Ankara was dropped yesterday by German prosecutors, who said they lacked sufficient evidence to implicate the clerics working for the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB).
The investigation, started months ago, was a culmination of rising hostility towards Turkey in Germany in the wake of a bloody coup attempt last year by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). It was claimed that imams were spying on FETÖ members in Germany who describe themselves as members of a religious charity.
The inquiry sparked a crisis between Berlin and Ankara, which accuses Germany of harboring terror suspects from FETÖ and other terrorist groups.
The DİTİB is an independent body that runs hundreds of mosques and other religious facilities in Germany and serves both Turks and Muslims from other communities.
German prosecutors said they had sought arrest warrants for seven suspects who are now residing in unknown locations, but a presiding judge found that the individuals did not pose an urgent threat.
Another seven individuals were cleared as allegations were not substantiated by evidence.
Police were able to obtain "written documents, data storage banks and communications material" in raids targeting the suspects, but "analyses and investigations did not find" proof that they provided any information to Turkish authorities.
The case against five others was dropped as they were found to have "provided only very general findings to the consulate and not concrete information relating to specific individuals."
In May, German authorities had announced that they resumed providing financial support to DİTİB after it was suspended over spying allegations.
The Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), which allegedly instructed imams to spy on Gülenists, has rejected the spying accusations since the very beginning, saying that no orders had been sent to the DİTİB.
Ankara has singled out Germany among European countries for embracing some 250 fugitive diplomats and soldiers accused of involvement in the failed coup with suspected links to FETÖ.
A recent report that was prepared by academics Kemal İnat and Enes Bayraklı, titled "The FETÖ Settlement in Germany and Germany's FETÖ Policy," says that FETÖ has been using Germany as its main operation center and that German authorities have embraced the structures of the group with open arms.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports say that about 4,000 FETÖ suspects left for Germany after the coup attempt, while several suspects, including former military officers and diplomats accused of involvement in the coup attempt, applied for asylum.
FETÖ, which runs a global network of companies and schools, operates dozens of private schools, media outlets and companies in Germany as well.
More recently, the strained relations between Turkey and Germany showed signs of improvement after the general elections in Germany.
Berlin has been critical of Turkey for counterterrorism operations targeting the PKK and FETÖ groups though it recognizes the former as a terrorist organization.
Chancellor Angela Merkel held a rare phone conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week and the foreign ministers of both countries recently met in the southern Turkish city of Antalya.
Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın confirmed yesterday that two leaders discussed the investigation of the whereabouts of a senior FETÖ figure, Adil Öksüz, in their conversation and said Merkel affirmed that they launched an inquiry to check whether he was in Germany.
Turkish media outlets reported that Öksüz, who is wanted by Ankara for masterminding the coup attempt that left 249 people dead last year, was sighted in Germany by two German citizens.