Ahmed al Astal passed information on to his UAE handlers about Arab dissidents in Turkey "who may be vulnerable to recruitment efforts by Emirati intelligence.”

Turkish police officers wearing face masks patrol at Sultanahmet Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, June 5, 2020.
Turkish police officers wearing face masks patrol at Sultanahmet Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, June 5, 2020. (Reuters)

Turkey's intelligence officials have arrested a Jordanian man suspected of spying on foreign Arab nationals on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

Ahmed al Astal, 45, who is originally Palestinian had been working as a journalist and was reporting on Turkish politics and monitoring Arab dissidents living in exile, a Turkish official told the Washington Post

Astal confessed and is due in court this week, the official said. 

Turkish authorities have obtained "a trove of documents" from him showing UAE affiliation, a senior security official earlier told Reuters. 

New information has shown the man was working for UAE intelligence since 2009 and moved to Turkey in 2013.

He was monitoring activists and other individuals that were against the UAE government and using secured-emailed mechanism to contact his handlers as well as text messaging applications on his mobile phone. 

In 2015, he received 125,000 TL to buy an apartment in Turkey's Sakarya district.

A summary of the investigation given to the Post said his work “concentrated on Turkey’s relations with the Muslim world, foreign policy initiatives and domestic politics,” including finding out whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government would be sensitive to a coup after a 2016 failed attempt. 

The summary said he “passed information to the UAE about Turkey-based Arab journalists and dissidents, who may be vulnerable to recruitment efforts by Emirati intelligence.”

It suggested he was coerced into espionage and said his Emirati handlers, who knew him as Abu Layla, paid him around $400,000 while he was in their services. 

The UAE has not provided comment on his arrest. 

Not the first time

Last year, Turkey arrested another two men also suspected of spying on Arab nationals, including political exiles and students, for the UAE.

At the time, an official said one of those two was connected to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. One of the suspects later committed suicide in prison, according to the prosecutor's office.

The latest suspect travelled to Turkey using a non-UAE passport and "infiltrated Arab dissident and journalist networks for years," the official speaking to Reuters said.

READ MORE: Turkey arrests alleged UAE spies, probes for links with Khashoggi killing

Source: TRTWorld and agencies