Egypt has detained 29 individuals on suspicion of espionage on behalf of Turkey, as well as black market currency transfers, membership in a terror organization and money laundering, state-owned MENA news agency reported.
Egyptian authorities raided the places of residences of the suspected spies where they seized high-tech electronic devices which the suspects are believed to have used.
The nationalities of the suspects were not specified in the report.
The country’s top prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered the detention of the 29 individuals after the findings of an investigation by the Egyptian General Intelligence were submitted. The findings revealed that, together with the Muslim Brotherhood group, they allegedly plotted to overthrow the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood-led regime.
The suspects have allegedly recorded phone calls and monitored opinions by a number of civil society groups and social classes in Egypt. Then they relayed the collected information to Turkish intelligence services which used it to recruit local agents in Egypt, including Muslim Brotherhood members, to carry out hostile activities against the Egyptian state, according to the results of the investigations.
The findings also suggested that the suspected spies deliberately circulated false information and rumors in the Egyptian press in efforts to affect public opinion through portraying the Egyptian state in a negative light.
This is not the first time Egypt detains individuals suspected of spying for Turkey.
In late August 2013, barely two months after the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt arrested a 46-year old Turkish citizen in the city of Ismailia northeast of Cairo for snapping photographs of military establishments.
The latest arrests come in the wake of souring relations between Egypt and Turkey following the removal of Morsi in July 2013. Turkey emerged as one of the most forceful critics of the overthrow of Morsi, calling it a “coup”.
Egypt responded by freezing all Turkish investments in the country and expelling its ambassador. Since then, the ambassador has however returned.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 in Egypt, has strong ties with Turkey’s ruling AK Party. Many Egyptian members of the group fled to Turkey after the ouster of Morsi and the banning of the group.
However, despite the tensions between Egypt and Turkey, trade relations have slowly improved between the countries. Earlier this year an Egyptian-Turkish Business Forum was held which was attended by a high-caliber economic delegation from Turkey, the first official visit since the 2013 events that ended the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule.
Also this year, Egypt participated in the East Mediterranean International Tourism and Travel Exhibition held in Istanbul. Turkey’s Tourism Minister praised Egypt’s presence at the fair which provided Egypt with an opportunity to promote its ailing tourism sector.
According to statements made by Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Kabil in August, Egypt’s exports to Turkey increased by 30 percent to $US 1,07 billion in the first quarter of 2017. In 2016, trade between the countries reached $US 3 billion.
Observers have noted that both countries benefit from restoring diplomatic and trade relations but the latest revelations of Turkish interference in Egypt’s internal affairs will likely put at least a temporary halt to the further development of the thawing of bilateral ties.