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Germany says man working in Merkel's press office was spy for Egypt

Egyptian intelligence services allegedly hired a German-Egyptian national working in Merkel's office to survey how Egypt is portrayed in media
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Berlin in January 2020 (AFP/file photo)

Germany's Public Prosecutor General (GBA) said on Monday it had filed charges of espionage against an Egyptian-German citizen who worked at the government press office and gathered information for an Egyptian intelligence agency.

The GBA said the man, identified only as Amin K under German privacy laws, had been working at the press office since 1999 and was hired by the Egyptian embassy in Berlin in 2010 "at the latest".

The press office is headed by Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief spokesman, and is located about a kilometre from the chancellery.

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According to a statement by the prosecutor general on Monday, the man was allegedly instructed to assist Egypt's General Intelligence Service (GIS) with assessing how Egypt was portrayed in German media.

"He used this position from at least July 2010 to support employees of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (GIS) in obtaining information," prosecutors said in a statement.

Born in Egypt, the man is accused of using his language skills and the resources available to him at the BPA to survey and compile reports on the German media, especially about domestic and foreign policy.

He also participated in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to recruit a source for the GIS in 2014 and 2015 by providing secret service staff with a contact.

In return for his efforts, Amin A is said to have received preferential treatment from the Egyptian authorities for himself and his family, including help with his mother's pension. 

He was also invited to official receptions, such as the farewell of the then Egyptian ambassador to Germany in 2019. 

'Executive measures'

A probe has been in place since July, when a government report revealed that German police carried out "executive measures" against an Egyptian man in December after he was found to have "worked for years for an Egyptian intelligence service".

The report, issued by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, added that Egyptian secret service agents in Germany are tasked with gathering information about members of opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as minority groups such as Coptic Christians.

It also said that the agents attempt to recruit Egyptian expatriates for intelligence purposes. 

The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in power since 2014, has routinely targeted families of exiled opposition leaders who speak out against human rights abuses in the country from abroad. 

The German government said that the suspect did not have access to sensitive information.

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