Turkey has arrested a man accused of spying on behalf of regional rival the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkish public broadcaster TRT World reported Tuesday.
Ahmad al-Astal, a 45-year-old Palestinian from Gaza, had Jordanian travel documents when he was taken into custody in Turkey.
TRT World quoted Turkish sources as saying that the UAE had allegedly ordered al-Astal to spy on the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey as well as "other activists" after he moved to the country in 2013.
The report said he also gathered information on Turkish domestic affairs.
On Wednesday a Turkish court determined al-Astal would be sentenced to imprisonment for the crime of "obtaining and disclosing information for the purpose of political or military espionage, which must remain confidential in terms of the security of the state, domestic or foreign political benefits."
Al-Astal's family in Gaza issued a statement on social media on Sept. 25 saying he had been "kidnapped" four days earlier in Turkey.
His family said al-Astal was a journalist who had worked in the UAE for a decade before moving to Turkey where he worked at several media outlets, including state news agency Anadolu Agency (AA).
Relations between Turkey and the UAE have hit an all-time low, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently announced that Ankara may suspend its diplomatic relations with the Abu Dhabi administration in response to the recent UAE-Israel deal.
Turkish officials note that the UAE supports terrorist organizations that target Turkey and has become a useful political and military tool for other countries.
Back in August, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) revealed that the UAE, in cooperation with Israel, was going to try and destabilize Turkey, Iran and Qatar. The agency stated that the wanted UAE spy Muhammad Dahlan, who maintains contact with recently established outlets in Turkey, served this cause by channeling funds into certain anti-Turkey media organizations. Last year, Turkey also revealed that the Emirati spy network had been operating all over the country. Dahlan owns media outlets in the UAE, Egypt and Jordan.
Turkey added Dahlan to its most wanted terrorist list in December for his connections to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and his role in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, which led to the deaths of 251 people.
The two countries are also on opposing sides of the Libyan conflict. When Gulf states including the UAE cut off Qatar in 2017, Turkey was quick to provide support to Doha, who remains Ankara's closest ally in the region.
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