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Germany protests to Iran for spying on targets with ties to Israel

Iranian ambassador reprimanded after Revolutionary Guard agent convicted and sentenced for targeting pro-Israel official

Reinhold Robbe, former president of the German-Israeli Society (CC BY Freud, Wikipedia)
Reinhold Robbe, former president of the German-Israeli Society (CC BY Freud, Wikipedia)

The German government has protested to the Iranian ambassador in the country following the conviction of an Iranian agent for spying on targets including a former German lawmaker who headed a German-Israeli friendship group.

The Pakistani man was convicted in Berlin last year of espionage and sentenced to more than four years in prison. His targets included Reinhold Robbe, who headed the German-Israeli Association, and a French-Israeli economics professor.

Iranian Ambassador Ali Majedi was summoned to the Foreign Ministry just before Christmas. After German media reported on the meeting, the ministry said Tuesday he was told that “spying on people and institutions with a particular relationship to the State of Israel on German soil is a blatant violation of German law.”

The ambassador was told that such activities would not be tolerated.

In March 2017, 31-year-old Mustufa Haidar Syed-Naqfi was sentenced to four years and three months in prison “for working for a foreign intelligence service.”

Iranian demonstrators hold a portrait of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and a central figure in the violent spread of Iran’s revolution. Photo taken in Tehran’s Azadi Square, February 11, 2015. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP)

German media reported during the trial that local security agencies believe Robbe was being eyed by Tehran as a possible assassination target in retaliation for an Israeli operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The court found he spied “against Germany and another NATO member,” France, for the al-Quds Force, the foreign operations wing of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

Syed-Naqfi compiled dossiers on possible attack targets with ties to Israel. Investigators found detailed files on the men and their daily routines, with hundreds of photos and video clips.

The court heard they detailed the targets’ homes and work places, various access routes to them, as well as information on security guards, surveillance cameras and nearby police stations.

The service suspected the al-Quds Force was preparing for a possible future conflict with the United States and Israel, when it would hit targets in Europe in a form of “asymmetrical warfare.”

The Karachi-born Syed-Naqfi came to Germany as a student in 2012 and most recently lived in the western city of Bremen.

The defendant traveled to Iran at least twice, in October 2015 and February 2016, and received at least 2,052 euros ($2,237) for his intelligence activities.

He was arrested in July 2016, but declined to testify during the trial — “out of fear,” according to his lawyer.

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