Germany Reprimands Iran for Anti-Israel Spying on its Territory

BERLIN (Reuters) -
A general view of the German parliament Bundestag inside the plenary hall at the Reichstag building in Berlin. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Germany said on Tuesday it had summoned Iran’s ambassador to reprimand Tehran against spying on individuals and groups with close ties to Israel, calling such acts a completely unacceptable breach of German law.

The move comes after appeal on the March conviction of a Pakistani man for spying for Iran in Germany was rejected by the courts.

Mustufa Haidar Syed-Naqfi was convicted of gathering intelligence on Reinhold Robbe, the former head of the German-Israel Friendship Society, and an Israeli-French economics professor in Paris, for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

The Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to deliver the unusually sharp rebuke once the German constitutional court rejected his appeal. The meeting took place on Dec. 22 but was not disclosed until now.

“Spying on people and institutions with special ties to the state of Israel on German soil is an egregious violation of German law,” a ministry official said.

The official said Philipp Ackermann, acting director of the Foreign Ministry’s political section, had told the Iranian ambassador that “such activities would not be tolerated and were completely unacceptable.”

News of the meeting comes days before the foreign ministers of Iran, Germany, France and Britain are due to meet in Brussels to discuss a 2015 landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, and growing concerns about Iran’s crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Germany, which helped negotiate the nuclear deal, has sought to balance its interest in expanding trade ties with Iran with its strong commitment to human rights.

It has played a key role in European efforts to persuade Washington to keep the nuclear accord in place, an issue that will come up again late this week, when U.S. President Donald Trump must decide whether to re-impose oil sanctions lifted under the agreement.

Germany’s domestic intelligence service, which handles counterespionage, highlighted Iran’s spying activities in its annual report in July, noting that Tehran was focused heavily on Israeli or pro-Jewish targets.