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Germany ‘spied’ on French foreign minister

Lionel Bonaventure, AFP | Laurent Fabius leaving the Elysée presidential palace in Paris on April 8, 2015

Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service spied on French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, as well as on a German diplomat in a possible violation of the country’s constitution, a German radio station reported on Wednesday.

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Officials firmly declined to comment on the report, but the parliamentary committee that oversees intelligence agencies was due to meet later in the day with the issue to be discussed.

The report by the Berlin-based rbb Inforadio was the latest twist in a growing scandal over the activities of Germany’s BND stemming from revelations in 2013 by US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

Without identifying its sources, rbb said that the BND had spied on Fabius, as well as other targets at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the World Health Organisation, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and firms in the United States.

French President François Hollande responded to the allegations by calling on Germany to hand over any information pertaining to the report.

"We ask that all the information be given to us," Hollande said on the sidelines of a migration summit in Malta. "These kinds of practices should not go on between allies."

Constitutional violation?

The intelligence agency also allegedly monitored German national Hansjoerg Haber, who was head of the EU’s observer mission in Georgia from 2008 to 2011 before going on to become a senior diplomat in Brussels. He is now head of the EU’s mission in Turkey and married to a state secretary in the interior ministry.

Under Germany’s constitution, the country is not allowed to spy on its own citizens. Privacy is a sensitive issue in Germany due to extensive surveillance by Communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police and by the Nazi era Gestapo.

The allegations come nearly two years after Snowden revealed widespread US surveillance in Germany, including bugging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Since then a scandal has erupted over the BND’s own activities and how much it assisted the NSA.

An oversight committee is scrutinising BND activity, especially after revelations earlier this year that it indirectly helped the NSA spy on European firms such as Airbus.

Last month, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas called for tighter controls on the BND after reports that its spies had targeted embassies of allied countries without the government’s express permission.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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