German army translator on trial over spying for Iran

The suspect was arrested in January 2019, reportedly after a tip-off from an overseas source and an ensuing set-up.

    The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the official name of Germany's BfV domestic spy agency, has its headquarters in Cologne [Sascha Steinback/EPA-EFE]
    The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the official name of Germany's BfV domestic spy agency, has its headquarters in Cologne [Sascha Steinback/EPA-EFE]

    A German-Afghan translator for the German army goes on trial on Monday, along with his wife, on charges of spying for Iran.

    Abdul S is accused of "a particularly serious case of treason" and of "violating state secrets" in 18 instances, according to the higher regional court of Koblenz in western Germany.

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    The 51-year-old was arrested in January 2019, reportedly after a tip-off from an overseas source and an ensuing set-up to catch him in the act. He has been in detention ever since.

    His 40-year-old wife, Asiea S, will be in the dock with him after prosecutors in December charged her with aiding and abetting treason.

    Asiea is accused of "helping her husband from the very beginning" with his espionage activities for Iranian intelligence services, the Koblenz court said, but she had not been detained by police.

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    Abdul worked for several years as a civilian translator and cultural adviser to the German Bundeswehr at the Heinrich-Hertz barracks in the town of Daun, near Koblenz.

    Officials have been tight-lipped about the case, revealing no details about the information that was allegedly leaked.

    Abdul himself "has yet to comment on the accusations against him", the court said in a statement.

    He risks life in jail if found guilty, which in Germany usually means a sentence of at least 15 years.

    His wife faces a maximum of 11 years in prison.

    The court case will be held behind closed doors and is expected to last until the end of March.

    Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency has identified Iran has one of the countries most active in spying on Germany, along with China and Russia.

    Iranian spy services "are regularly looking for appropriate sources to cover the information needs of the regime", the BfV said in a report.

    In 2018, Germany arrested a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat suspected of being a spy, with prosecutors alleging he was plotting with a Belgium-based couple to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris.

    In another high-profile case, former German intelligence agent Markus Reichel was convicted in 2016 for spying for both the CIA and the Russian secret service.

    In 2011, Germany jailed a married couple for spying for the Russian secret services for more than 20 years.

    SOURCE: News agencies