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Egyptian Embassy in Germany denies reporting researcher to authorities

The Egyptian Ambassador in Germany denied allegations the embassy reported Egyptian-German researcher Atef Botros to Egyptian authorities after airport police banned him from entering the country on Saturday.

Botros was interrogated by police at the airport in relation to his affiliation with the Egyptian-German non-governmental organization Mayadin al-Tahrir, according to his brother.

Egyptian Ambassador in Germany Badr Abdel Aty, who used to be the official spokesperson for Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said during a telephone interview on LTC private satellite channel that he first heard of Botros when he was detained at the airport. However, several media reports and social media posts alleged the Egyptian embassy in Berlin was involved in reporting Botros to the authorities.

Abdel Aty emphasized the embassy has no role in submitting security reports and is only involved in taking care of Egyptians abroad, adding that the decision to question or detain someone at the airport is usually made by the prosecutor general or based on judicial orders.

“Such lies, which are being spread on social media websites, reflect an evil will to shame state institutions, and total ignorance as to how the Foreign Ministry and embassies work,” he asserted.

This is not the first time the Egyptian Embassy in Germany has faced such accusations.

Researcher and journalist Ismail Alexandrani was arrested from Hurghada International Airport based on similar reports, after he attended a conference in Berlin to discuss a recent paper he published on the troubled Sinai Peninsula and its rising Islamist militancy.

Journalist and producer Walid al-Sheikh was also briefly detained at Cairo International Airport on January 26, when he was interrogated by national security officers. Sheikh openly accused the embassy of submitting security reports to authorities about Egyptians who organize anti-government activities in Germany.

Sheikh said he attended a meeting at Mayadin al-Tahrir, the same organization Botros runs, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the January 25 revolution. During the meeting, poet and former detainee Omar Hazek read two of his poems via video conference, followed by a discussion with professor of political science Ahmed Abd Rabou on the need for building a strong civil society. 

The Berlin-based journalist asserted that the Egyptian Embassy has been following the activities of Mayadin al-Tahrir and reporting its members to authorities. He defended the organization, adding that its 25 members all belong to secular currents and have limited finances. Botros is on the board of directors of Mayadin al-Tahrir, which organizes outreach programs for marginalized communities in Egypt and public events about Egyptian art and culture in Germany. 

Former leader in the National Salvation Front Magdy Hemdan was also temporarily held by airport authorities upon his arrival from Berlin. Hemdan, who was once a staunch government supporter, shifted his stance when he heavily criticized President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s cabinet on channels affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hemdan accused Abdel Aty of being an informant.