COP27: Germany warns its delegation against Egyptian spies

German federal police have warned their country’s delegation to COP27 in Egypt that its members could be spied on by Egyptian security agents, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

In an email sent on Saturday, the Federal Criminal Police Office – known in Germany as the BKA – warned delegates of “open and covert surveillance through photography and video” by Egyptian agents, said one of the people quoting the email. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s statements on Egypt’s human rights record last week sparked the risk of scrutiny, the source added. Reuters did not view the email sent by the police. Two other officials in Germany confirmed the warning’s existence, but declined to comment on its precise wording. Egypt’s COP27 Presidency and State Information Service, which handles relations with foreign media, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A German police spokesman declined to comment.

“Provocative Actions”

In the warning, the police say that delegates may have their conversations recorded and that people close to the Egyptian state may try to disrupt events organized by the Germans “by provocative actions”, according to the email cited by the source. Three German COP27 participants from non-governmental organizations and industry said they had been verbally warned by other participants and delegations of possible surveillance. Two NGO workers told Reuters what they consider to be suspicious activity that has taken place on several occasions in recent days, including being photographed and followed.

Susann Scherbarth of the German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation is one such source, the other being a member of the Climate Action Network who wished to remain anonymous. Reuters was unable to independently confirm their testimonies. A German Foreign Ministry official said he expected the participants to be “capable of working and negotiating in secure conditions”. “To this end, we are in continuous exchange with the Egyptian side”, he added. On Tuesday, Olaf Scholz said he spoke with COP27 hosts about jailed hunger striker Alaa Abd el Fattah, a prominent activist and blogger sentenced to five years for spreading fake news. “A decision must be made, a release must be made possible, in order to prevent the hunger striker from dying”, Olaf Scholz told reporters. The Egyptian government said prison authorities would provide health care to Abd el Fattah.

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