German Jewish leader possibly targeted in Iranian spy operation, officials reveal

World News

BERLIN (JTA) — The head of Germany’s main Jewish organization may have been staked out by a spy for Iran’s secret service, German security investigators have revealed.

The newsmagazine FOCUS has reported that Josef Schuster, recently elected to a third four-year term as president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, may have been targeted by a onetime informant to Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

According to news reports, the Berlin-based Central Council said Schuster is often targeted, but that he felt well-protected by Germany’s security officials nevertheless.

Intelligence services in Great Britain, Canada and the United States warned last week of possible attacks on Jewish leaders, Iranian dissidents and journalists by Iranian cells. Iranian foreign agents groom Islamic extremists as well as common criminals to prepare and carry out such attacks, the report said.

In this case, a 49-year-old Syrian-born man — identified only as Aladin Mohamed H., of Iraq — is suspected of having spied on Schuster for Iran’s secret service. He reportedly had worked as an informant for Germany for six years, providing information on Islamist radicals.

Meanwhile, a possible Iranian connection has been uncovered in investigations into bullet holes found in the facades of two synagogues in the city of Essen, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, in late November. No one was injured in the incidents. A 35-year-old man of German and Iranian citizenship is being held in connection with those attacks. He allegedly tried to recruit an accomplice for a planned arson attack on the synagogue in Dortmund in mid-November, according to the Düsseldorf prosecutor general’s office.

Investigators said they suspected the incidents could be linked to an arson attack on the Hildegardis School, a public high school in Bochum, on the same night.

Security reportedly had already been tightened around Jewish institutions in North-Rhine Westphalia following those attacks. It was beefed up again as the investigation continues, according to the state Interior Ministry.

The ARD TV news magazine Kontraste confirmed that German investigators suspect the Iranian Revolutionary Guards might be behind those attacks.

In the spying case, FOCUS magazine said “Berlin security circles” had monitored the suspect’s telecommunications. The case recalls another one in 2018, in which German investigators carried out raids on the homes and workplaces of 10 alleged Iranian agents in Germany, suspected of carrying out surveillance on various potential targets, including Jewish leaders and institutions.