The German government’s announcement of the arrest of a suspected Egyptian spy at the heart of the German federal government has caused widespread concern among Egyptians residing abroad. The reason for this concern is due to the tasks that the Egyptian spy was performing for the Egyptian security services, as those tasks included spying on Egyptian opponents, sending their names to the regime, and following up those who applied for asylum in Germany.
Egyptian opponents pointed out that this spy is not considered an exception, as the Egyptian regime is spreading its spies in most countries of the world to follow up on dissidents residing abroad. According to the German internal intelligence report quoted by several German media institutions, including Bild daily, the General Intelligence Service and National Security Apparatus, which are Egyptian secret services, are active in Germany.
Among the tasks assigned to this spy, is to coordinate with these two bodies in order to collect data on Egyptian opponents in Germany, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Coptic (Christian) Egyptians, Egyptian journalists, and everyone who came to Germany to seek asylum. Among his duties was also to search for the recruitment of Egyptians for intelligence purposes.
Egyptian opponents say that anxiety is growing because the spy, who worked in Cairo previously for an intelligence agency, is working inside the Federal Press Office, the office charged with media and communication in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The news came on the basis of a report by the German Internal Intelligence Service (Constitutional Protection Authority) stating that the matter was discovered at the end of 2019, but the report was not released until Thursday July 9, 2020. Once the news spread, there were great reactions on social media, especially Twitter, from Egyptians.
Egyptian journalist Amr Khalifa wrote on Twitter that Egyptian intelligence spies are also in New York. He explained that he was once sitting in a café there when one of the spies came and was trying to verify his identity, and went to ask one of the staff about him and if he was actually the journalist Amr Khalifa.
Journalist Ahmed Sameh wrote sarcastically that the workers in the Egyptian intelligence services “spy and promote national unity at the same time as long as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Copts (Christian) are among their goals.”
The German report says that the Egyptian spy previously worked inside an Egyptian intelligence service, meaning that he had training in espionage. The report indicates that among the factors that facilitated the work of the spy was that he was an employee in the visitors’ section, and the tasks of the department are to meet the visitors to the Federal Press Office and communicate with local and foreign media. This spy, for whom a criminal investigation is currently under way, has worked for years in this job.
German literature professor Maha El Hissy wrote that it is known that the Egyptian embassy in Berlin and London collect information about Egyptians, especially opponents, but what is surprising this time is that the spy was inside a German institution.
An Egyptian dissident residing in Washington said that during a protest in September 2019, in front of the White House, he was surprised by two Egyptian officials working for the National Security who were spying on him to find out who was present at that event.
She added to Egypt Watch that she went to the nearest police officer and explained to him that the presence of these two people threatens the safety of the protesters and their families’ safety in Egypt, because they are interested in writing and sending reports about them to the regime. She added that as soon as the officers went to them and asked them not to harass any of those present at that event, they immediately left.
These testimonies give rise to a growing concern that the Egyptian regime has begun to pursue and harass Egyptian opponents outside the country.
Human rights activists see that during the past years, the international community has not taken a firm stand against the al-Sisi regime’s rights violations, which encouraged him to expand measures to suppress dissidents outside the country.