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Germany: 2 men arrested for spying on Syrian opposition

Two men have been arrested in the German capital, Berlin, for allegedly spying on opponents of the Syrian government in Germany.

Syrian spies arrested berlin germany 07 02 2012Enlarge
Protesters hold a Syrian flag outside the Syrian embassy in Berlin, Feb. 3, 2012. German police are investigating whether Syrian agents spied on opposition figures in Germany over several years. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

BERLIN, Germany — Two men were arrested in Germany today on suspicion of spying on opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The two suspects are accused of conducting systematic surveillance of members of the Syrian opposition living in Germany over several years, the Spiegel Online reported. They have been identified as Mahmoud El A., a 34-year-old Syrian national, and Akram O., a 47-year-old German-Lebanese dual citizen.

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Their arrest in Berlin this morning followed an extensive investigation by Germany's domestic intelligence service, according to the Associated Press.

Federal prosecutors said 70 police officers were involved in today's raid, in which the apartments of the suspects and six alleged accomplices were searched.

The men will go before an investigating judge tomorrow.

Prosecutors have said there is no evidence that they were linked to a recent attack on a Syrian opposition politician in Berlin, according to Die Welt newspaper. Ferhad Ahma, born in Syria and residing in Germany since 1996, was beaten up outside his home on Dec. 26, an assault he blamed on the Syrian regime's "thugs."

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Ahma is a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, which Assad's government refuses to recognize. The party to which he belongs in Germany, the Greens, called for him to be offered state protection.

"It cannot be accepted that members of the Syrian opposition in Germany are hunted, persecuted and intimidated by Syrian services," said Green Party MP Volker Beck.

Germany has joined calls for a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, accusing the government of killing thousands of its civilians. 

"The German government firmly believes that there is no future for President Assad following these atrocities and that he must clear the way for peaceful change in his country," said Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle earlier this week.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/120207/germany-2-men-arrested-spying-syrian-opposition