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Man charged with spying for Egypt while working for Merkel

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    Agence France-Presse

Berlin, Germany   /   Mon, November 16, 2020   /   08:55 pm
 Man charged with spying for Egypt while working for Merkel German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a press statement on the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 at the Chancellery, in Berlin on Monday. (AFP/Markus Schreiber)

A man who worked in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's press office has been charged with spying for Egypt, prosecutors said Monday.

The German national, named as Amin A., began working for the visitor service of the federal government press office (BPA), headed by Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert, in 1999.

"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. 

"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," a report by the domestic intelligence service published in July said. 

Aside from a brief interlude following the popular uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has been ruled by the military since 1952. 

The army is highly visible in Egypt's public life, with former top brass currently serving as ministers and heading governorates.

Current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led the army's overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader's rule.