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Terrorism

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas rejects calls for central jail for terror suspects

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has rejected calls for a central prison for all terror suspects. Trade unions were prompted to make the demand by the suicide of terror suspect Jabar Albakr in Leipzig.

Amid investigations into the suicide of terror suspect Jabar Albakr, the German Justice Minister and Social Democrat (SPD) Heiko Maas has rejected demands to create a central prison which would accommodate terror suspects.

"According to the Basic Law [Germany's constitution] the penal system is a matter for each state," Maas said in comments published by the "Süddeutsche Zeitung."

The accused and convicted have therefore "always been sentenced to institutions of law enforcement throughout the whole of Germany," he said.

The justice minister was also "unwilling, on the basis of one, certainly serious incident, per se, to deny every state the competence to accommodate such detainees."

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said there are "considerable disadvantages" to a central jail for terror suspects

In previous cases, such as that concerning the Sauerland Group and the 2007 bomb plot, the accused were "only sent to Karlsruhe for their arrest warrant and subsequently were immediately returned to the decentralized detention center," Maas recalled.

The problem is "more the necessary sensitive handling of suicide-stricken prisoners than the required high security," Maas said, adding that this applies not only to terror suspects.

Due to issues such as isolation, monitoring and suppression of communication, "the accommodation of several terror suspects in one place could lead to considerable disadvantages," Maas told the "Süddeutsche."

This was demonstrated by examples from the Red Army Faction (RAF) period, he said, adding that even in Stammheim prison, the "the homicide of RAF assassins was not prevented."

'We weren't sufficiently prepared'

Albakr, a Syrian refugee, hanged himself in a cell in Leipzig last Wednesday, two days after his arrest. Investigators assume that he planned an Islamic attack on a Berlin airport. His alleged accomplice Chalil A. is in Dresden in investigative detention. The suicide of the 22-year-old has led to massive criticism of Saxony's authorities.

In an interview last weekend with "Bild am Sonntag," Saxony Justice Minister Sebastian Gemkow conceded that Saxony's law enforcement officials made mistakes.

"We all have to learn about how to deal with Islamist prisoners," Gemkow said, adding that it was "obvious" that Saxony's current procedures for providing safe prisoner accommodations were "not enough."

Gemkow said it was possible that Islamist terror suspects would commit suicide in order to purposefully make investigations more difficult.

"We weren't sufficiently prepared for this case in Saxony," the state's justice minister told the newspaper.

Discussions are continuing within the federal government. Reports from the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Prosecutor are on the agenda for the Legal Affairs Committee, while the exchange of information between the federal prosecutor's office and the Saxon judicial authorities is also to be discussed.

ksb/jm (AFP, dpa)

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