German authorities have arrested a former translator and cultural advisor for the German military, accusing him of spying for Iranian intelligence. The 51-year old man, who has been identified only as Abdul S., was arrested along with his wife and charged with treason and with breaching official secrecy laws in 18 cases.

The accused is a dual German-Afghan citizen. The prosecution has revealed very little of its case thus far. Reporters and media were barred from the courtroom when the accused was being indicted in Koblenz’s state court. 

The trial is being held behind closed doors because of security concerns, Judge Thomas Bergmann stated. The trial is expected to last through March.

The accused’s wife, identified only as Asiea S., is also a dual German-Afghan citizen. She has been charged with being an accessory to treason. Prosecutors have said that she supported his passing of secret documents to Iran from the beginning, without detailing the nature of that support. Her trial will take place in March.

Abdul S. faces life in prison if he is found guilty of the charges; however, that normally means he’d have to serve at least 15 years. His wife faces a maximum of 11 years.

It was revealed in court documents that “Abdul S. is strongly suspected of abusing his position as a civilian employee of the Bundeswehr to pass on military state secrets to a member of the Iranian secret service.”

He was arrested in January of 2019 after informants overseas tipped off German authorities of his alleged spying. The Germans set up a trap for Abdul S. and once he took the bait, he was taken into custody; he is being held ever since. 

Abdul had worked for several years at the Heinrich-Hertz barracks in the town of Daun, in the Eifel region of western Germany near Koblenz. 

He isn’t the only Iranian agent that the German authorities have uncovered: In 2018, German authorities arrested a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat suspected of espionage. Prosecutors alleged that he was plotting, along with a Belgium-based couple, to plant a bomb at an Iranian opposition rally in Paris.

Germany’s BfV, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (German: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschut), a domestic intelligence agency, has identified Iran as one of the countries most active in spying on Germany, along with China and Russia. In a published report, the BfV said that Iranian spy services “are regularly looking for appropriate sources to cover the information needs of the regime.” 

The BfV has been rocked by scandals almost since its inception. Back in the 1950s, it was learned that many of its earliest members were also members of Nazi Germany’s infamous Gestapo, much like their East German foes at the time, the Stasi. 

Later it was learned that the Stasi had penetrated the BfV. And in the aftermath of 9/11, it was revealed that the BfV had failed to detect the activities of many of the terrorist conspirators while they stayed in Germany.