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Espionage probe Swiss ministry says no diplomatic immunity for Turkish spying suspects

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The Turkish embassy in Bern


Turkish nationals suspected of espionage in Switzerland do not enjoy diplomatic immunity, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has confirmed.

On March 16, 2017, the Office of the Attorney General launched a criminal inquiry into possible foreign spying on Switzerland's Turkish community. On Thursday, the FDFA confirmed that the suspects in the probe, who were reported to have held diplomatic posts at the Turkish embassy in Bern at the time of the events, no longer hold the positions and no longer reside in Switzerland. 

The Swiss ministry said the accusations outlined in the criminal proceedings were not diplomatic tasks, and therefore those people concerned cannot avail themselves of immunity. It has informed the Attorney General’s office that proceedings can continue. 

The investigation followed alleged political intelligence gathering in which participants at events at the University of Zurich in late 2016 and early 2017 were filmed or photographed.

+ The Swiss Federal Council recently reported an increase in foreign espionage

The Attorney General’s office confirmed on Thursday that the investigation also concerned an attempt to kidnap an individual in Switzerland to take them abroad.

Swiss daily newspapers Tages-Anzeigerexternal link and Der Bundexternal link reported on Wednesday that federal prosecutors were investigating whether Turkish diplomats had planned to kidnap a Swiss-Turkish businessman in 2016. The papers reported a plan to drug and kidnap the Zurich-based man. He supposedly became a target because of his links to the Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities accused of attempting a coup. According to the newspapers, one of the would-be kidnappers returned to Turkey, but the other one still works in Bern. 

Turkey's ambassador to Switzerland last year denied allegations that his staff spied on opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Tages-Anzeiger/Der Bund/

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