German Federal Criminal Police trains secret services in Egypt on monitoring „extremism“ on the Internet

The Federal Ministry of the Interior is stepping up its cooperation with Egypt in spite of persecution against the opposition, abuse, torture and death sentences. What is more, the Federal Criminal Police Office is cooperating with two notorious intelligence services. The focus here is on “extremism” and “terrorism”, two labels that have been used to justify the incarceration of activists, bloggers, journalists, lawyers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is training Egyptian security authorities on Internet surveillance with a range of measures. The Federal Ministry of the Interior disclosed this information in its reply to a minor interpellation, according to which a further workshop on “monitoring websites” is scheduled to take place in December. The focus is on websites “that are abused by terrorists in order to disseminate their extremist ideology and to plan terrorist attacks”. No information has been provided on which forms and instruments are being used for monitoring purposes. The training measures also include financial investigations into bank accounts and transfers.

According to the reply to the minor interpellation, the participants are staff members of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, who presumably work for the National Security Sector (NSS), which has conducted similar measures with the BKA over the past two years. Further partners include the General Intelligence Service (GIS), with whom the Federal Criminal Police Office has launched a “practitioners’ colloquium on combating terrorism and extremism”. Representatives of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Federal Intelligence Service staff also attended this colloquium at the invitation of the BKA. The BKA has dispatched a liaison officer to Cairo for the “information exchange on matters relating to extremism and terrorism”.

More than 40,000 incarcerated as political prisoners

A number of the workshops were geared towards trainers and took place in Cairo, Berlin, Meckenheim, Magdeburg and Wiesbaden. The Egyptian secret service employees were, on a number of occasions, invited to the Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre (GTAZ) in the Treptow borough of Berlin, where the BKA liaises with the German Offices for the Protection of the Constitution. Further visits were also made to the State Security Division of the BKA. The service held discussions on topics such as “combating extremism and (de-) radicalisation, movements of Islamist persons, as well as strategies for tackling this problem”.

The head of the Egyptian Police Academy had already travelled to Germany for an information exchange and met members of the Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences, the German Police University, the police force of a German federal state and the BKA, among others. Further visits are scheduled to take place before the end of this year, including with the participation of the German Police University. The measures are not only targeted against activities by groups such as so-called “Islamic State”. Over 40,000 people have been incarcerated as political prisoners, according to reports by Amnesty International. The majority of the detainees are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore supporters of former President Mohammed Mursi, who was deposed two years ago by Military General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and handed a forty-year sentence of imprisonment. Civil rights and human rights groups, bloggers, media professionals and lawyers in particular have been singled out as victims of persecution. According to Amnesty, torture and enforced disappearance are widespread and prospects of a fair trial are slim.

Security agreements for closer cooperation

During Mursi’s one-year term in office, the Federal Ministry of the Interior suspended its cooperation with Egypt, allegedly owing to the situation with respect to human rights. There has been a considerable increase in the number of death sentences since Mursi was ousted, however. In the end, the BKA decided to resume earlier forms of cooperation under Husni Mubarak’s dictatorial regime. Then as now, German criminal investigation officers had no qualms about cooperating with the Egyptian Government. Just a few weeks prior to the revolt in 2011 in which social media played a significant role, Egyptian authorities received training on procedures for investigating Internet users.

In June, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Egyptian Ministry of Interior Affairs signed a security agreement following years of negotiations. This agreement provides a framework for closer cooperation on averting danger, as well as in the field of criminal prosecution and technical assistance in the event of disasters. Both sides intend to exchange experts and information for this purpose. Thus far, the contents of this agreement have been classified as secret; the Federal Ministry of the Interior has likewise refrained from providing detailed information in its reply to the minor interpellation.

Image: Poster to protest visit of al-Sisi in Berlin 2015.

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.