German government exposes financial sources of Turkish pro-government think tank

SETA, an influential think tank known to be close to ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been financed mainly by the family of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, the German government said in a response to a parliamentary inquiry, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Thursday.

The government was responding to an inquiry submitted by the Germany’s Left Party about the financial sources for the Foundation for Political, Social and Economic Research, or SETA, DW said. 

“The institution, which is close to the government, is to a large extent financed by the Albayrak family,” the German government said. 

Serhat Albayrak, the brother of Berat Albayrak, the Turkish Minister of Treasury and Finance, is the chairman of SETA. Before entering politics, Berat Albayrak served as CEO to Sabah newspaper’s owner, Çalık Holding. Serhat Albayrak is also on the board of Çalık Holding's media group, Turkuvaz.

The Left Party also asked the German government whether the country’s intelligence agency had been following the activities of SETA, which opened a branch in Berlin in 2017. The government said that it could not answer the question, but added that German authorities would act if SETA resorted to illegal means to increase its influence or engaged in intelligence gathering activities. 

SETA was widely criticised by journalism organisations this year after it published a report on foreign media in the country, including Deutsche Welle Turkish. The report provided a detailed profile of journalists reporting for foreign news outlets in Turkey, including information on their past employment and social media postings.

The think tank has also published reports on the organisational structure in Germany of the Gülen movement, a religious group Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In some of its reports, SETA accused German politicians and media outlets of supporting terrorist organisations and publishing reports against Turkey, DW said.

Zafer Meşe, the head of SETA’s Berlin branch, refused an interview request from DW on the issue.