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Germany

Controversial British snooper's work in Germany comes under scrutiny

Opposition parties in Germany have called for more information on the actions of a British undercover police officer, who has since gone to ground, known to have broken several laws while serving in three German states.

An eye peeping through a keyhole

For years, the officer infiltrated activist organizations

Opposition politicians from the Green and Left parties on Thursday said the government must further investigate the activities of a British undercover police officer who is known to have committed at least three crimes on German soil.

The story surfaced through the news magazine Der Spiegel, which reported - citing insider sources - that the head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Jörg Ziercke had briefed top interior politicians on Mark Kennedy's undercover work in Germany at a classified committee meeting.

"I can't comment on the goings-on at the interior committee, but I do know that the reports in the papers today are largely correct," senior Green Party politician, Hans-Christian Ströbele told Deutsche Welle. "It is true that Mark Kennedy was active in Germany, and not just on the commission of British authorities like Scotland Yard. It's also quite clear that he was also working for several German police forces, namely state police in Schleswig-Holstein, Baden-Württemberg and Berlin."

Germany's BKA law enforcement agency would not comment on the issue, citing the confidentiality of Ziercke's address in Berlin.

Mark Kennedy, who took the guise "Mark Stone," infiltrated leftist and environmental groups across much of Europe for years on behalf of Scotland Yard, but recent reports in the UK and now Germany have begun to indicate that he bent a number of rules in his work.

German officers have less room to maneuver

A German police officer stands with his back to the camera, observing a crime scene

German police officers are subject to a strict code of conduct

Ströbele said that Kennedy is known to have played a part in at least three minor crimes in Germany, something that a German undercover agent is not permitted to do. German police officers are subject to the strict rules governing all civil servants, and as such are forbidden from breaking any law, regardless of the nature of the work they are conducting.

These rules - which of course make it very difficult, if not impossible, for German undercover agents to successfully infiltrate criminal organizations and gather evidence - currently do not apply to foreign officers serving in Germany

"As I understand it, using foreign operatives is currently common practice because one can operate more freely that way, and also because it's believed that the groups that are being infiltrated will find it harder to identify foreign agents," Ströbele said. "We must unify the regulations across Europe and ensure that all undercover agents have to maintain the same code of conduct."

Kennedy was caught helping to set fire to a public refuse container in Berlin, and taking part in an illegal blockade ahead of the 2007 G8 Summit in the northern German town of Heiligendamm. However, according to reports in the German press, all charges were dropped when the authorities alerted local police to the agent's identity. He also had a sexual relationship with an environmental activist in Berlin, breaching the conduct codes that would apply to a German officer.

"The suspicion that Kennedy was actually acting as an 'Agent Provocateur' in these crimes still cannot be ruled out," the spokeswoman for the interior for Germany's Left party, Ulla Jelpke said on Thursday.

Officially, Kennedy was classified as an "informant" by the German security services, not as a police officer. However, The Greens' Hans-Christian Ströbele argues that increased cross-border police cooperation and empowerment introduced under the auspices of the European Union means that there should no longer be such distinctions between undercover agents of different nationalities.

A large group of G8 protesters marching in the German city of Heiligendamm

Kennedy was secreted among the ranks of G8 protestors in Heiligendamm

"Further clarification on this matter is absolutely necessary," Ströbele said. "We must know whether this undercover agent was also paid by the German government, on top of the healthy payment he received from Scotland Yard. Also, was he involved in other, similar crimes? And why was he not prosecuted or even investigated in the existing cases?"

Incommunicado

Mark Kennedy himself has since gone to ground. He is believed to be somewhere in the United States.

The mole's activities had come under severe scrutiny in the UK in recent weeks, after the trial of six environmental campaigners, accused of trying to shut down one of Britain's biggest power stations, collapsed amid claims that he was to testify on behalf of the defendants.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declined to comment on the precise reason why it had abandoned the proceeding on January 10, issuing a statement saying "previously unavailable information that severely undermined the prosecution's case came to light."

Defense lawyer Mark Schwartz, however, said the scope of Kennedy's activities might also have jeopardized the prosecution's case.

"I have no doubts that our attempts to get disclosure about Kennedy's role have led to the collapse of the trial," Schwartz said. "It is no coincidence that just 48 hours after we told the CPS, our clients could not receive a fair trial unless they disclosed information about Kennedy, they halted the prosecution."

Schwartz also said that Kennedy had been willing to testify on behalf of his clients, and suggested that after a decade working in the activist scene, the undercover agent might have "turned native."

Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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