German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned a Turkish boxing gang called "Osmanen Germania BC" ("Germania Ottomans") on the grounds that it poses a serious threat to public order.
The gang, most of whose members are Turkish Germans, is said to be involved in organized criminal activity in all of Germany's 16 federal states. It is also believed to have close ties to the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The German ban comes less than a day after Buzzfeed, an American internet media company, falsely accused Gatestone Institute of fabricating the existence of such gangs in Germany.
Seehofer said the gang "poses a serious threat to individual legal interests and for the general public." He added:
"Once again, the federal government and the federal states have shown that they are resolutely fighting all manifestations of organized crime in Germany, including rocker-like groups such as Osmanen Germania BC, whose members commit serious crimes. Those who reject the rule of law cannot expect any kind of leniency from us."
The announcement came as police carried out raids on Osmanen Germania in the states of Baden Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Osmanen Germania, which claims to be a boxing club concerned about the welfare of young people, was founded after the Hells Angels, the world's biggest outlaw biker gang, decided to allow non-Turkish migrants to enter their ranks. Police believe Osmanen Germania is an effort by former Turkish German members of the Hells Angels to protect their market share of organized crime.
Osmanen Germania resembles the Hells Angels in appearance and structure, but without the motorcycles. German security agencies classify the gang as "a rocker-like group" (rockerähnliche Gruppierung). The Interior Ministry wrote:
"The club describes itself as a boxing club and pretends to want to get young people 'off the street.' In fact, its common purpose lies in the violent development of territory and power as well as in the self-assertion against competing rocker-like groups. In the past, there were repeated serious injuries and attempted homicides, especially in disputes with the now defunct Kurdish rocker-like group 'Bahoz.'"
Osmanen Germania has been one of the fastest-growing gangs in Germany. Within months of its founding in Frankfurt in April 2015, the group had established dozens of chapters across the country. Today the gang, which profits from prostitution, extortion and the trafficking of weapons and drugs, operates across Europe, despite repeated police raids. The group claims to have more than 3,500 members in Germany and elsewhere.
In an interview with the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, Oliver Huth, an expert on organized crime and deputy state chairman of the Federal German Criminal Investigation Office in North Rhine-Westphalia, said that Osmanen Germania's recruiting methods are modeled on those of the Hells Angels:
"They offer an identity by means of a uniform and try to gain members through a sense of community. Members then get involved in the criminal milieu and make their living there. The clubs are organized in a very hierarchical way, thus enabling a career path for those who are there long enough. The group's members are conspicuous in the city centers, they post photos of themselves on the internet and thereby show other gangs: 'This is city is mine now.'"
Osmanen Germania is especially active in North Rhine-Westphalia, with chapters in Aachen, Bielefeld, Bochum, Cologne, Dortmund, Duisburg and Düsseldorf.
The group is known for extreme violence. In Baden-Württemberg, for example, eight members of the group, including three of its highest-ranking leaders, are currently on trial for: murder, extortion, drug trafficking, forced prostitution as well as pimping and deprivation of liberty.
The brutality of Osmanen Germania was recently on display in an incident involving Celal S., a former member who was tortured because he allegedly violated the group's honor code. The newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that members of the gang lured Celal S. to an apartment in Herrenberg, tied him up, knocked out his teeth with an iron bar, shot him in the thigh and then, without anesthesia, removed the bullet with knives and tweezers. After three days, he managed to escape.
German authorities believe Osmanen Germania is close to the Turkish government, which uses the group to fight Turkey's internal political struggles in Germany. "Most of the gang's members are Turkish nationalists, and also carry out punitive actions in Germany against opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan," according to Der Spiegel.
German media have also reported on links between Osmanen Germania and Turkey's MIT intelligence agency, which has been accused of having up to a network of 6,000 informants in Germany to spy on critics of Erdogan.
Stefan Striefler, a lawyer representing two high-ranking members of Osmanen Germania, denied that the gang had ties to Erdogan: "The Osmanen Germania BC have never been political and is certainly not the Turkish president's thug team."
However, according to research by Frontal 21, an investigative news program on public broadcaster ZDF and the daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Erdogan confidant Metin Kulunk, a member of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), directly and indirectly provided money to Osmanen Germania. That money was allegedly used to purchase firearms, including a Scorpion sub-machine gun, which was subsequently seized by police.
Kulunk instructed Osmanen Germania to attack Kurds and other critics of Erdogan living in Germany, according to police. Phone taps indicate that Kulunk instructed gang members to carry out assaults on Kurds, film the acts and provide videos to the Turkish state to be used as a "deterrent" against Erdogan's critics.
Police say Osmanen Germania also has ties to the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), the AKP's external lobby group. In a tapped phone conversation, Kulunk urged the former head of the UETD in Mannheim, Yilmaz Ilkay Arin, to get Osmanen Germania to punish German comedian Jan Böhmermann for a controversial poem criticizing Erdogan. Böhmermann was warned, put under police protection and spent several weeks outside of Germany.
German authorities say that Osmanen Germania is also involved in terrorist financing and cooperates with some German Salafists, many of whom are committed to overthrowing Germany's liberal democratic political system and replace it with one governed by Islamic law.
On July 9, a day before the German ban on Osmanen Germania, Buzzfeed falsely accused Gatestone Institute of exaggerating the threat posed by such gangs. The author of the Buzzfeed article, Ishmael N. Daro, an Afghan immigrant living in Canada, also accused Gatestone of pushing "anti-Muslim propaganda" for drawing attention to the growing problem of Muslim gangs — including Osmanen Germania — enforcing Islamic extremism in Germany.
In July 2017, Gatestone, based on a story published by Die Welt, reported on the emergence of a Muslim biker gang in Mönchengladbach called "Germanys Muslims" (the possessive apostrophe is not used in German). The group said its aim was "to protect and support our brothers and sisters from the ever-growing hatred of Islam."
Gatestone's original story, which was well-sourced, noted that German police had questioned the group's founder, a German convert to Islam named Marcel Kunst, because he was a Salafist. As previously mentioned, many Salafists want to replace liberal democracy in Germany with Sharia law.
In an interview with Die Welt, Isabella Hannen, spokeswoman for the Mönchengladbach Police Department, revealed that police met with Kunst and warned him that "vigilantism will not be tolerated." The questioning apparently succeeded in its deterrent effect: "Germanys Muslims" subsequently issued a statement saying that they were non-violent and respected the authority of the state.
Gatestone noted that although German police did not know how many people belonged to "Germanys Muslims," its Facebook page (now deleted) had more than a thousand followers. The group appears to have fizzled out after warnings by German police.
Gatestone also noted that German authorities are concerned about Muslim vigilantes enforcing Islamic extremism and the rise of anti-Muslim counter-vigilantes. In an annual report, Germany's BfV intelligence agency warned that an escalating action-reaction cycle could result in open warfare on German streets.
Moreover, Gatestone's report specifically reported that German authorities were concerned about the rise of Osmanen Germania. Yet, Buzzfeed accused Gatestone of "promoting anti-Muslim misinformation and conspiracy theories" for reporting on the problem.
The decision by German authorities to ban Osmanen Germania is a singular testament to the veracity of Gatestone's reporting. Gatestone Institute will not allow false accusations of Islamophobia to detract from its mission of providing quality reporting and analysis — thoroughly sourced and fact-checked before being published — about events in Europe and beyond.