BERLIN — A linguist and adviser for the German armed forces has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Iran, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
The 50-year-old man, identified only as Abdul Hamid S. under German privacy law, is a dual German-Afghan citizen. He is suspected of passing on information to an Iranian intelligence service.
The arrest comes as tensions between the European Union and the Iranian government escalate over the latter’s increasingly aggressive posture in Europe.
“Abdul Hamid S. is strongly suspected of having worked for a foreign intelligence service,” said a statement by the federal prosecutor.
The suspect will appear in court later on Tuesday.
German media reports said that the suspect appears to have had access to sensitive information, including details of German deployments to Afghanistan as part of the NATO counterterrorism mission in that country.
The arrest comes after a series of high-profile and embarrassing episodes for Tehran’s relationship with Europe, including a series of arrests and diplomatic expulsions for assassinations or attempted assassinations of opponents in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, and — according to some unconfirmed intelligence reports — even Albania.
In each case of violence or plots, the Iranians and their agents appear to have targeted well-known opponents linked to various Kurdish, Sunni Muslim, and other dissident political movements.
“Again we are seeing increased evidence of Iranian intelligence and more militant factions within the regime — the Revolutionary Guards guys and intelligence services that report directly to the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] rather than normal political channels,” said a NATO military intelligence officer who cannot be identified in the media.
“This is continuing to antagonize [European] police and intelligence at a very tricky time. The Americans want us to re-implement the pre nuke deal sanctions despite little evidence the Iranians violated the agreement. But amid all this pressure from [President Donald] Trump on us, the Iranians decide to become cowboys all across Europe.”
“It’s not helpful for anyone really,” said the officer, who then added that in all likelihood the recent wave of arrests and expulsions are linked, insofar as EU domestic and international intelligence services appear to be cracking down on Iranian activity in the wake of the assassination plots.
“I can’t say this is linked, I haven’t been briefed,” they said. “But it would make sense that every service in Europe is looking hard at Iranian activity in the wake of the Dutch accusations.”
In January of last year, the German Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to Germany to express the country’s deep concern about Iranian intelligence activity directed at Israeli officials and supporters in Germany.
Last week, the Netherlands announced that it has expelled two Iranian diplomats earlier this year for being linked to the 2015 and 2017 murders of Iranian dissidents in that country. And in a joint operation this September, the Belgian, German, and French authorities arrested two Iranian-Belgian dual nationals for allegedly agreeing to bomb a meeting in Paris of Iranian dissidents.