A new call by Germany's interior minister has further fueled the country's debate over balancing the need for civil liberties and the necessity of stopping potential terrorists before they can act.
Should German police take immigrants who have trained in al Qaeda camps into custory?
In an interview published Sunday in the newsweekly Der Spiegel, Social Democrat Otto Schily said his ministry wants to push through legislation that would allow police to take foreigners identified as potential terrorists or dangers to the state into protective custody until a decision can be made on their deportation.
However, both the Green Party, the Social Democrats' junior government coalition partner, and the opposition Free Democrats rejected the proposal, saying preventative arrests were not compatible with a country that recognizes democracy and the rule of law.
Both the government parties and opposition plan to meet on Friday for a new round of negotiations on Germany's first-ever immigration law.
Politics shouldn't 'shirk' responsibilities
In his talk with Der Spiegel, Schily said he was confident the parties, including the opposition Christian Democrats, would reach an agreement on "reasonable rules" that would allow the deportation of suspected terrorists. Schily also said he believed the first deportations could be carried out as soon as this year. Politics cannot "shirk" what "we do with people whom we believe represent a massive danger to our country," Schily told the magazine.
Schily said he would also consider additional foreigner registration requirements as well as limitations on residence permits for suspected terrorists who cannot be deported under German law because they face torture or capital punishment in their home countries. In extreme cases, he said, it "may also be necessary to put them in custody for a while."
Günther Beckstein, Bavaria's interior minister and a member of the conservative Christian Social Union, said there were up to 1,000 candidates for deportation.
But Schily said he did not want to mention numbers, "much more important is the question whether I can really deport the people," he said.
An Afghan guerrilla handles a U.S.-made Stinger anti-aircraft missile in this photo made between November 1987 and January 1988. The shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile supplied to the Afghan resistance by the CIA during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, is capable of bringing down low-flying planes and helicopters.
Under the plan, a person could be deported from Germany if it could be proven they had been trained in an al Qaeda terrorist camp, if they had served as a guerrilla fighter in Chechnya or had been involved in the distribution of videos calling for holy war against western states, Schily told Der Spiegel. The plan would permit state interior ministries or, in some cases, the Federal Interior Ministry to determine whether a suspect could be deported. The plan stipulates that a special chamber of the Federal Administrative Court in Karlsruhe could also be convened to review cases.
An unconstitutional idea?
Volker Beck, manager of the Green Party's parliamentary group, rejected Schily's call, noting that most instances of preventative arrest are illegal under German law. "Protective custody for innocent people does not exist in a constitutional state and that's how it will remain."
Meanwhile, Silke Stokar, the party's domestic affairs spokeswoman, said: "We're not going to allow them to create a Guantánamo (Bay) in Germany!" And Max Stadler, the domestic policy spokesman for the Free Democrats, described Schily's plan as "unacceptable and superfluous." All three called on the government to review existing laws.
Criticism also came from Marieluise Beck, the federal government's commissioner for integration and foreigners. The Berlin commissioner told the Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper that any plan to deport suspected terrorists or state enemies would have to undergo constitutional review before being implemented.
Law limits protective custody
Under current German law, a foreigner under consideration for deportation can only be taken into custody if both the deportation decision cannot be made immediately and deportation would be "seriously exacerbated or thwarted" without detention. However, the law also holds that individuals cannot be taken into custody if they cannot be deported within three months due to circumstances they cannot control -- if, for example, they face the death penalty at home. Many politicians agree that under that definition many suspected terrorists in Germany cannot be held in protective custody.