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EU states 'approved spy equipment sales to Egypt'

MEP says European politicians are to call on governments of Germany and Italy to explain sales that would allow for mass surveillance
The Siemens deals came before Sisi came to power (AFP)

European politicians are to call on the governments of Germany and Italy to explain why they approved the sale of equipment to Egypt that would allow for mass surveillance of Egyptian citizens.

The report, on Al Jazeera English, said equipment was sold by German firm Siemens to the Egyptian government’s "Technical Research Department” (TRD), including a monitoring centre and equipment for intercepting private telephone communications.

Siemens’ deals with Egypt would need to be approved by the German government.

The contracts date back to before the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but the technology has been used by the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi against supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president removed by Sisi in a 2013 coup.

Siemens signed a $9bn deal with the Sisi government last June to supply gas and wind power stations to boost Egypt's electricity generation by 50 percent.

The Al Jazeera report states that a man named Gahal Haddad was arrested and jailed after discussing the Rabaa Square massacre of 14 August 2013 in a phone conversation with the one of Morsi’s sons. The content of the phone call was later played on Egyptian television.

Al Jazeera added that an Italian company had sold Egypt “malware” – or malicious programs – that can infect target computers and corrupt, steal or destroy data.

None of the sales were illegal under state law.

However, Richard Howitt, a British member of the EU parliament, said:  “We have a responsibility for our companies and those companies accept they are responsible for UN guiding principles on human rights.

“It’s clear to me that these exports are wrong.”

Eva Blum-Dumontet, of Privacy International, told Al Jazeera that Egypt’s government has a big budget for surveillance and were always looking to improve their technology.

“From the perspective of Western companies, the TRD is the obvious customer,” she said.