Turkey’s ambassador to Switzerland has denied allegations that his staff spied on opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of Sunday’s controversial referendum on expanding presidential powers.
Ilhan Saygili said he was sure that “no such activities were conducted within the realm of our embassy”, in an interview with Swiss public television, SRF, on Wednesday.
He added that he would be willing to cooperate with the criminal probe being carried out by the Federal Prosecutors Office into the allegations if there was evidence of espionage. The Swiss foreign ministry last month warned that it would rigorously investigate illegal intelligence activities.
According to Swiss media reports, intelligence gathering is alleged to have taken place at events at the University of Zurich in late 2016 and early 2017, in which participants were filmed or photographed.
Erdoğan supporters have been suspected of spying on alleged followers of the religious and social movement led by Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, following last year’s failed military coup.
There are Turkish expatriates with extreme political ideas living in Switzerland, according Saygili, but he denied reports about a rift among the diaspora.
The ambassador, who took up his post in Bern last December, also accused the Swiss media of biased reporting.
Saygili also said that his deputy had been removed from office, but did not confirm media reports that the diplomat and his family had sought asylum in Switzerland.
An estimated 130,000 Turkish immigrants live in Switzerland. Many of them belong to the Kurdish minority group.
On Sunday, Turkish voters will decide on a government proposal to grant increased powers to President Erdoğan.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/ug