Translator and analyst at counter-terrorism group suspected ‘of leaking state secrets to Morocco’

Sculpture Joris van Gennip

The Public Prosecution Service (OM) reports that it concerns a 64-year-old man from Rotterdam and a 35-year-old woman from Gouda. The man works for the NCTV and also carries out work for the National Unit of the national police. The woman is a former employee of the NCTV who recently started working for the police.

The examining magistrate decided that they will remain in custody for fourteen days. The suspects are under restrictions, which means they are only allowed to have contact with their lawyers.

Sources confirm that it concerns 64-year-old Rotterdam resident Abderrahim el M. He works as an Arabic translator and senior analyst at the NCTV and the national police unit. In his position he would have access to sensitive files of the CTER (Counter-terrorism, Extremism and Radicalization) department of the police. Public data shows that he is or has been a ‘strategic scout’ at the Ministry of Justice, which includes the NCTV.

Suspicions against translator for years

El M. has a Moroccan background. Within the national police unit there has been suspicion for several years that the man would pass on information to the Moroccan government. He would have been warned about that too. It is unclear what happened to those suspicions. Public information shows that he already worked in the strategy directorate for the Ministry of Justice in 2001, where he contributed, among other things, to publications about the state of affairs at the Moroccan police.

According to the national public prosecutor’s office, searches have taken place in various places. “The investigation by the National Criminal Investigation Department, led by the National Public Prosecution Service, is in full swing.”

According to the Public Prosecution Service, no additional information can be provided at this time in the interest of the investigation. The national police unit, for which the man worked, does not want to comment substantively on the arrest.

Author Sietske de Boer is stunned by the arrest of El M. “He is a super smart man who is extremely critical of the Moroccan government. I really don’t see any reason why he would give them information.” In 2002, De Boer wrote a book about the El M. family, who have been active in the labor movement in Morocco for decades and are very critical of the Moroccan government. A cousin of El M. was kidnapped by the Moroccan secret service in 1972 and probably murdered.

Yeşilgöz wants independent investigation into leak

Outgoing Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz (Security and Justice) wants an independent investigation. This should not get in the way of the criminal investigation by the National Criminal Investigation Department – which is separate from this. In her letter to the House of Representatives, the minister does not make it clear why such a second investigation is necessary and what exactly she wants to find out.

In an interview with BNR Nieuwsradio she provides a little more clarity about the independent research. She wants to check with the authorities involved whether all measures and steps have been followed correctly, which could possibly be tightened up and whether mistakes have been made.

“Let me first say that I find this a very disturbing news,” Yeşilgöz said in the letter to Parliament. The minister says he needs more time to decide what the design of the investigation will be. She also writes that the NCTV and the police have taken ‘additional security measures where necessary’. She does not want to provide more information, ‘in the interest of the criminal investigation’.

Several MPs reacted with dismay to the news. Joost Sneller (D66) calls it a ‘disturbing message’ and believes that the minister should provide as much clarification as possible as ‘the importance of the investigation allows’. For example, he wants to know whether people are in immediate danger because of the leak. Songül Mutluer (PvdA) also says he still has many questions about the issue, after Yeşilgöz’s letter and the Public Prosecution Service’s message about this.

What does the NCTV do?

NCTV officials work from the buildings of the Ministry of Justice and Security in The Hague. They form the connection between all other services in the Netherlands that deal with intelligence, security and (counter)espionage. If there is a crisis, for example a terrorist attack or the crash of MH17, the service plays a central role. The NCTV also determines several times a year how great the threat of a terrorist attack is in the Netherlands. The NCTV also ensures the monitoring and security of objects, people and national events.

What are state secrets?

There are different levels of confidential information within the government. This starts with ‘departmentally confidential’, if the information becoming public could harm the interests of one or more ministries. It then goes from ‘State secret confidential’ (possibly harmful to the vital interests of the State), via ‘State secret secret’ (serious damage to the State), to State secret very secret’ (very serious damage to the State or its allies). In principle, ministries themselves determine when something is secret, but there are guidelines for this.

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