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German federal press office employee charged with spying for Egypt government

German police in Berlin, Germany on 1 May 2020 [Abdulhamid Hoşbaş/Anadolu Agency]
German police in Berlin, Germany on 1 May 2020 [Abdulhamid Hoşbaş/Anadolu Agency]

German authorities have charged a federal press office employee with espionage after he was caught spying for the Egyptian intelligence service.

According to a report presented by Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, police took "executive measures" against the man in December 2019 after he "worked for years for an Egyptian intelligence service."

He was dismissed last year on suspicion of spying for Egypt, say German media, who saw the government report yesterday.

According to the German daily, Bild, the man worked for the visitor service of the federal government's press office which is headed by the German Chancellor's spokesman Steffen Seibert.

"We are not commenting on ongoing investigations or on personnel matters," said Seibert in response to the news.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency has said that Egypt's foreign and domestic intelligence services are active in Germany including in gathering information on opposition activists.

The government report stated that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are of interest, as are Coptic Christians. One of the main tasks of the Egyptian secret service in Germany includes recruiting Egyptian nationals as spies.

Pompeo to Egypt: Stop harassing US citizens

"There are indications that Egyptian services are trying to recruit Egyptians living in Germany for intelligence purposes through their visits to Egyptian diplomatic missions in Germany and their trips to Egypt," stated the report.

The news is particularly disturbing in light of the Egyptian regime's tactic of intimidating family members of Egyptians who are active abroad.

Following a recent lawsuit filed by the former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan in the US against Egypt's former prime minister for alleged torture, Egyptian security forces arrested five of his cousins as a reprisal.

Germany is Egypt's second largest trading partner after China with commerce between the two countries reaching almost €4.5 billion ($5 billion) in 2019, according to Germany's federal office.

In the first six months of 2019 the German government approved $899 million of arms exports to Egypt.

READ: US citizen accused of smuggling Egyptian artefacts through JFK Airport

The close relationship between the two countries is under scrutiny given Egypt's human rights record, marked by the arrest of thousands of citizens, including women and children, an unprecedented number of executions and the systematic medical neglect of detainees.

Earlier this year Germans challenged a decision by the Semperopernball Opera House in Dresden to award the Order of St. George to the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, allegedly in recognition of his peace-making efforts in North Africa. Activists highlighted the systematic violations of human rights committed in Egypt.

The organiser admitted the award was a mistake and the TV journalist hosting the accolade pulled out.

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