German army translator held on Iran spying charge
Prosecutors say a German-Afghan citizen who worked for the German military as a translator has been detained on suspicion of spying for Iran.
The federal prosecutor’s office said the 50-year-old “Abdul Hamid S” was a language expert and cultural adviser.
“Abdul Hamid S is strongly suspected of having worked for a foreign intelligence agency,” the authorities said.
Der Spiegel said the suspect had access to sensitive documents, including the details of tactical deployments in Afghanistan. It said he worked for Iranian secret services for several years.
The European Union has imposed sanctions on Iran for various alleged spying operations.
This month Brussels put an Iranian intelligence agency and two individuals on the EU terrorist list, freezing their assets.
Germany army, Bundeswehr, often uses native interpreters to accompany troops on patrol in Afghanistan.
It has up to 1,300 personnel in the international security force in Afghanistan, with a mandate running until the end of March.
The man was purportedly arrested in Germany’s Rhineland region.
Based in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, Nato’s German contingent trains Afghan government troops, carries out surveillance and protects humanitarian missions. They also have been involved in battles with Taliban militants.
Germany has raised fears about what it sees as an increasing espionage threat by Iran.
Cornelius Adebahr of the German Council on Foreign Relations said the case underlined Iran’s continued activities against Germany and the west.
“This cannot just be shrugged off. It makes clear Iran is a country with hostile intentions that is spying against us,” Adebahr said. “Despite Europe’s interest in maintaining the 2015 nuclear accord, this is not a relationship among friends or allies.”
Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency in July reported that Iran had stepped up its cyber warfare capabilities and posed a danger for German firms.
Iran said the accusations were fabricated to harm EU-Iran relations.
In October, a German court supported the extradition of an Iranian envoy suspected of involvement in a Parisian bomb plot.
In 2016, former German intelligence officer Markus Reichel was convicted of spying for the CIA and Russian intelligence.
In 2013, a married couple were found to have spied for the Russia for more than 20 years. They had been deployed in the former West Germany from 1988 by the KGB and its successor, the SVR.
The German army in Afghanistan. Picture credit: Wikimedia