Middle East

Syria crisis: German police arrest two suspected spies

Anti-Assad protesters in Berlin (3 Feb 2012)
Image caption Demonstrations took place outside the Syrian embassy after armed forces attacked the city of Homs

A Syrian and a German-Lebanese man have been arrested in Berlin on suspicion of spying on opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The pair, identified as 34-year-old Syrian Akram O. and dual national Mahmoud El A., 47, are to appear before a federal judge on Wednesday.

Their homes were searched by 70 officers who were also investigating six other suspects.

They are suspected of spying in Germany "for several years," a statement said.

The federal prosecutor's office said the arrests had come after "an extensive investigation", adding that the other six suspects "are also believed to have been involved in spying".

Unconfirmed reports suggested the other suspects were linked to the Syrian embassy in Berlin.

Last Friday, 20 demonstrators entered the Berlin embassy and, according to police, damaged offices there.

Beaten up

The arrests come weeks after Syrian dissident and Berlin Green politician Ferhad Ahma, 37, was beaten up by two men in his flat in an incident he blamed on Bashar al-Assad's government.

Reports indicated Tuesday's arrests were not linked to the December 2011 attack.

In a separate development, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is said to be considering the closure of the country's embassy in Damascus.

The United States has already shut its embassy and France, the UK and Italy have recalled their ambassadors for consultations.

EU member states have begun work on further sanctions against Damascus and are likely to reach agreement on the measures on 27 February.