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Trial begins of Egyptian working in German gov't press office accused of spying

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) during their meeting at Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt on March 2, 2017. [Egyptian Presidency - Handout - Anadolu Agency]
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) during their meeting at Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt on March 2, 2017. [Egyptian Presidency - Handout - Anadolu Agency]

Germany has begun the trial of an Egyptian man known as Amin K accused of spying on dissidents whilst working in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's press office.

Amin K, 66, is accused of passing on information about members of the Egyptian opposition to Egypt's foreign intelligence services between 2010 and 2019 and of attempting to recruit another person who was working in the same office.

Amin K was offered preferential treatment by Egypt, alleged prosecutors, and his mother received help from his handling officer to claim her pension.

The suspect is accused of making observations about media coverage of Egypt-related domestic and foreign policy issues in Germany. Amin K also allegedly passed on the names of five employees in the press office who were of Syrian descent.

The case came to light in December 2019 when Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer presented a report saying that police had taken "executive measures" against a man after he "worked for years for an Egyptian intelligence service."

READ: Egypt targeting opposition members of parliament, rights group says

The report, which had been compiled by Germany's domestic intelligence service, said that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Coptic Christians were of interest to Egypt's foreign and domestic intelligence services, which are active in Germany in gathering information.

Germany is Egypt's second largest trading partner after China with commerce between the two countries reaching almost $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 though it has come under scrutiny for continuing with these deals despite Egypt's dire human rights record.

Egypt regularly punishes the family members of dissidents living abroad, imprisoning them and interrogating them as a way to put pressure on outspoken voices.

Earlier this month Egyptian authorities once again arrested the relatives of former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan, who lives in the US, in a bid to make him close down a lawsuit in which he accused the former Egyptian PM of overseeing his torture whilst he was detained in Egypt.

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