There is no consolation for democracy and human rights.. Hunting down Egyptian opponents in Germany after arms deals

The slogans of democracy and human rights criticism of the Sisi regime by Western democratic countries were nothing but ashes in the eyes of their citizens only, and this applies to the situation with Germany and its relations with Egypt.

The policies of the criminal Al-Sisi succeeded in silencing Germany and its institutions from confronting him, his military repression and his violations of human rights, while passing some criticism and reprimands that neither harm nor move a finger or address a bleak reality on the level of human rights.

Where the Egyptians living in Germany are threatened and spied on by the intelligence service of the coup regime of Al-Sisi, and they say that “their situation has become more dangerous since Berlin signed a security agreement with Cairo in 2017.”

Dissidents in Germany told Middle East Eye that they “risk arrest if they return home, and fear reprisals against their families in Egypt as part of a campaign launched by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government to stifle dissent abroad.”

In one case, an Egyptian residing in Berlin told MEE that he was “arrested and imprisoned in Egypt, for participating in a protest against Sisi during Sisi’s visit to the German capital in 2015”.

Mohamed, who, like others who spoke to MEE, did not want his real name to be known due to security concerns, said he had been filmed at the demonstration by people believed to be working for the Egyptian intelligence service.

Mohamed said he did not consider himself a political activist at the time of the demonstration, but decided to attend because he objected to Germany’s hosting of Sisi despite his government’s disregard for human rights and its persecution of political opponents since the military coup that brought Sisi to power in 2013.

During the demonstration, Mohamed got into an argument with Sisi supporters, and during this dispute his photo is believed to have been taken, and in late 2015, Mohamed traveled to Egypt where he was arrested, accused and convicted of organizing illegal protests in Egypt, and says that he “was not in the country at the time of the protests. But he was sentenced to two years in prison.

“After hindsight, the idea of ​​traveling to Egypt was a ridiculous idea,” he said, adding, “They accused me of demonstrating at sites in Cairo while I was not there. They just wanted to put me in jail. Sisi doesn’t like people who criticize him.”

economic and security relations

Mohamed told Middle East Eye that he was released and allowed to return to Germany after he had served half of his sentence, following diplomatic pressure from Germany and other European countries, but he said that “the closer economic and security relations between Egypt and Germany, despite concerns about human rights It has only made the situation worse for Egyptians who criticize the government.”

Sisi’s visit to Berlin in 2015 came against the backdrop of a series of deals worth billions of euros that benefited German companies, including an $8 billion contract to develop Egypt’s energy infrastructure signed by German energy giant Siemens at an economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh earlier. from the year 2015.

Egypt has also become one of the largest buyers of German arms and military equipment, spending an estimated $900 million in 2019 and $850 million in 2020.

In 2017, Egypt and Germany signed a controversial security partnership agreement. The agreement facilitated the exchange of intelligence and data between the German police, security services and the Ministry of the Interior of the coup government, and cooperation in areas including combating terrorism, human trafficking and organized crime.

According to several accounts heard by Middle East Eye, the number of employees at the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin nearly doubled after the agreement was signed.

“Then the situation became very bad for us,” Mohammed said.

He added that many exiles and opponents spoke out or campaigned against the security cooperation agreement, and that their activities did not go unnoticed.

Raiding families’ homes

“Many of these have been the target of cyber attacks against their social media and email accounts, and he now says that he has now changed his phone regularly because he suspected that his devices had been hacked and monitored,” Mohammed said.

“So far, all our activities are monitored by Egyptian officials and the attendance is filmed, then Egyptian agents write reports about what was discussed and send them with everyone’s names and photos, and this often leads to targeting the families of those involved,” he said.

Mohamed pointed out that security forces raided his family’s home in Egypt in 2019, saying, “What frightened me is that when the authorities raided my family’s house and were looking for my mother, no one cared. I called everyone I knew in Germany, including politicians and activists, but no one helped me.”

MEE spoke to three other Egyptians in exile in Germany, who recounted similar experiences of threats and harassment to their families in Egypt, their stories consistent with those confirmed by Human Rights Watch research.

In February 2021, “Middle East Eye” published a report on raids on the family home of another Egyptian dissident who is currently based in Berlin. Academic lawyer and political activist Taqadim al-Khatib told Middle East Eye that “the coup security forces raided his family’s home and questioned his parents about his activities abroad.

Al-Khatib was dismissed from his job at a university in Egypt after an official at the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin questioned him about articles and publications on social media.

“The US-based Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of cases of raids on the families of exiled dissidents since 2016,” said Amr Magdy, Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“The situation is getting worse. Families were prevented from traveling abroad, their homes were raided in the middle of the night, and their family members were arrested without charges, and they were subjected to harsh interrogations to spread fear and intimidation,” Magdy said.

“Egyptian intelligence has deployed agents across Europe to monitor critics of the Sisi regime, and as a result, exiled Egyptian journalists are now self-censoring, and academics are choosing less sensitive topics.”

He added, “The intelligence services may also be interested in other people of Egyptian origin, such as members of the Coptic Christian denominations, as it was reported that the Egyptian armed forces are trying hard through their intelligence services to win the support of citizens residing in Germany.”

The activities of the Egyptian intelligence services in Germany were also revealed in a 2019 German intelligence report, which said that “these services mainly work in order to gain information about members of the opposition living in Germany, such as members of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Among Egyptian activists and human rights activists, there is hope that Germany’s new center-left coalition government, headed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, will look again at the security relationship between the country and Egypt and the activities of Egyptian intelligence agents on German soil.

Freezing the security agreement

According to Stefan Rolle, head of research for North Africa and the Middle East at the Institute for International and Security Affairs, a Berlin think tank that advises the German government and parliament, the intelligence-sharing agreement with Egypt has already been frozen.

“German officials know what is going on,” Rolle said in an interview with “Middle East Eye,” citing concerns in Germany about torture and human rights violations and Egypt’s use of Interpol notices to target dissidents abroad.

He said that “the German authorities sent a strong message in December 2019 when the police arrested a German citizen of Egyptian origin, accused of spying for Egypt while he was working in the press office of Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

In March, the man known as Amin K. pleaded guilty and was given a suspended prison sentence of one year and nine months.

Over the years, he added, it became very clear that this security agreement was not viable, and the German authorities know that they cannot trust the Sisi government.

However, Rolle said, “German commercial interests in Egypt and the continued desire for Egyptian cooperation in anti-terror issues and control of the flow of migrants from North Africa to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean, made it difficult for the government to consider any tougher action against Cairo.” .

“Germany is quickly losing influence in Egypt, criticism from Western capitals, I don’t think the Egyptians are taking it more seriously. Now it’s just about business,” he added.

The German Foreign Ministry asked whether it would look again at the country’s relationship with Egypt in light of the threat facing Egyptian dissidents in Germany and their families in Egypt, but had not received a response as of press time.

In Berlin, Mohamed Lamei said that he “was forced to apply for asylum after the Egyptian embassy deprived him of consular services, and his application was accepted after only three days, and he said that this was an indication that the German government was taking care of me, but he said that he gave up any activity, out of concern for for the safety and health of his family.”

He added, “Now I do not attract attention and lead a quiet life. I am still struggling to return to my profession, and I sometimes suffer from anxiety and depression, but at least I am safe.”

Source: بوابة الحرية والعدالة by

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