‘Tip-off from friendly intelligence service’ led to arrest of suspected Iranian spy in German military

A tip-off from a friendly intelligence service led to the arrest of a German armed forces translator this week on suspicion of spying for Iran, according to reports on Thursday.

A friendly intelligence service warned the German military that it had an Iranian spy in its ranks as long ago as 2017, according to Spiegel magazine. The report does not name the intelligence service involved.

The warning contained no information about the identity of the alleged spy, or even which unit of the military he was serving in. German military intelligence began a laborious search to identify him, culminating in this week’s arrest.

A 50-year-old German citizen of Afghan heritage named only as Abdul Hamid S was held on Tuesday on suspicion of passing classified information to Iran for a number of years.

Abdul Hamid S, who is a German citizen, was based at a barracks in the Rhineland region where he worked for an electronic warfare unit translating Taliban signals intercepted by German troops serving with international forces in Afghanistan.

German investigators identified him when they noticed his suspicious travel patterns. He made a series of trips to European cities which coincided with visits by a known Iranian intelligence operative.

German military intelligence deliberately fed Abdul Hamid S bogus explosive information. The translator promptly arranged a meeting with his Iranian contact, and was caught in the act.

The case is a potential embarrassment for the German armed forces. Abdul Hamid S had served as a military translator since the 2000s, and was subject to high level security clearance checks before he was allowed to work with the electronic warfare unit.

The Iranian charge d’affaires was called to the German foreign ministry over the case, and the Iranian intelligence operative involved has been told his movements will be closely monitored in future, according to Spiegel.

In a separate case, an Iranian diplomat accredited to the country’s embassy in Austria was arrested in Germany last year on suspicion of involvement with a planned bomb attack on an Iranian opposition event in Paris.

The German authorities have not commented on the latest allegations.

“Abdul Hamid S. is strongly suspected of having worked for a foreign intelligence service,” federal prosecutors said in a statement on the case on Tuesday. “The accused was a translator and cultural advisor to the Bundeswehr. In this capacity, he is suspected of passing information to an Iranian intelligence service.”

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