Turkish authorities arrested two individuals in Istanbul on 15 April on suspicion that they were spying on Arab nationals on behalf of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Reuters reported, citing an unnamed senior Turkish official on 19 April. Those arrested, who are believed to be intelligence officers, have reportedly confessed to conducting espionage.
"It is possible that there was an attempt to collect information about Arabs, including political dissidents, living in Turkey", the source reportedly said.
Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper reported that the arrested spies were delivered to the courthouse, where prosecution requested to prolong their arrest under charges of military, political and international espionage.
The source didn't specify the names of alleged the spies, but noted that one of them had arrived in Turkey in October 2018. A journalist for The Independent Turkish later published alleged photos of the arrested men. Both spies had reportedly recruited informants to be used in their intelligence activities.
İstanbul’da yakalanan Birleşik Arap Emirlikleri’ne çalışan iki casusun görüntüleri: pic.twitter.com/Bh1u2vc7e1— İbrahim Haskoloğlu (@haskologlu) April 19, 2019
"We have extensive evidence of the individuals' covert activities on Turkish soil," the source said.
Turkey has reportedly also found the spies' hidden base of operations and seized encrypted computers as a result of a counter-intelligence investigation. The UAE hasn't commented on the report yet.
Relations between Turkey and the UAE recently entered a downward spiral. The UAE's Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash admitted in 2018 that bilateral relations weren't "in their best state". Abu Dhabi has repeatedly slammed Turkey's actions in Syria, calling for Ankara to "respect Arab sovereignty and deal with its neighbours with wisdom and rationality".
In turn, Ankara accused the UAE of supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is deemed a terrorist entity in Turkey, over Abu Dhabi's reported support for the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Ankara believes that the SDF and PKK are linked.