Switzerland warns Turkish authorities over surveillance of citizens

Turkey's FM Mevlut Cavusoglu meets with Swiss counterpart Didier Burkhalter in November 2017, (Photo: MFA)

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs announced that allegations about the surveillance of Turkish citizens living in Switzerland by the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), Turkey’s intelligence agency will be “rigorously investigated”.

Concerns about the surveillance of Turkish citizens who will be voting in the approaching Turkish constitutional referendum were conveyed to Turkish authorities, according to a written statement by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs made after the meeting between Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on 23 March, 2017.

“Freedom of expression is a universal value recognised by Switzerland, which hopes that this freedom will also hold true for Turkish citizens whether they cast their votes in Switzerland or in their own country,” said Burkhalter during the meeting according to the statement.

Mr Burkhalter underscored the validity of Swiss law on Swiss soil, urged Turkey to comply with it, and said that Switzerland would rigorously investigate illegal intelligence activities.

The Swiss government has been pressured by cities including Zurich to block visits by Turkish officials who want to campaign for the 16 April referendum on expanding Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers but the Federal government has refused on the grounds there was nothing to justify curbs on freedom of speech.

Erdogan has accused Germany and the Netherlands of behaving like Nazis for halting some rallies by Turkish ministers, comments that both countries have called unacceptable.

“The two ministers also discussed their countries’ positions on various issues, including a possible reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey, the duration and proportionality of the state of emergency, the independence of the judiciary, and cooperation with institutions such as the Council of Europe,” said the statement posted on the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs website late Thursday night.