The domestic intelligence agency, the office for the protection of the constitution, presented its annual report in Berlin Tuesday. Both radical Islam and right-wing extremism continue to threaten German society.
Schily called for zero tolerance towards enemies of the constitution
Interior Minister Otto Schily said that German national security remained largely stable in 2004, with German law enforcement authorities successfully reducing the threat of terrorist activities. But in spite of apparent successes, he stressed, there has been a slight increase in rightwing crime in this country, and the fight against neo-Nazi violence and rightwing sentiments needs to intensify.
Schily also praised Germany's new anti-terror laws introduced after the September 11 attacks on the United States, as well as recent legislation aimed at curbing public appearances of far-right parties in Germany.
Threat of fundamentalism
In 2004, three years after the terror attacks on the US, the fight against Islamic terrorism continues to be Germany's prime national security concern.
Schily said that there was still a potential of 57,000 radical Muslims in Germany and that the number of members in fundamentalist organizations had actually increased slightly from 30,950 in 2003 to 31,800 last year. Yet government efforts, including new anti-terror laws introduced in 2002, he said, had proved successful in 2004.
"We were able to improve substantially surveillance and intelligence-gathering," he said, "which is a precondition for curbing Islamic terrorism. The establishment of a national counter-terrorism centre last year has accelerated the processing and analyzing of important information, enabling us to reach a new level in the fight against terrorism."
In 2004, the report says, German authorities were able to ban two fundamentalist organizations operating here. Among them was the so-called Al-Aqsa Association, which had been collecting money to finance terrorist activities, and a Turkish newspaper spreading anti-Jewish propaganda.
Further successes, Schily said, were 171 cases brought against terror suspects in German courts. They included the trial of three Iraqi citizens who were allegedly plotting to kill the former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi (pictured, center) during a visit to Germany last year.
But the report also revealed that 2004 had seen the emergence of new worries, primarily regarding right-wing violence and extremism.
Far-right crimes jumped by 10 percent to 12051 incidents. And although the overall number of neo-Nazis in Germany dropped slightly to 40,700, the far-right National Democratic Party was able to attract more than 300 new members, increasing its rank-and-file to well over 5000. Schily warned that the party's campaigns were increasingly focusing on the most vulnerable members of German society.
"The right-wing scene has stepped up efforts to lure children and young adults to their ranks, he said. "The NPD has even started canvassing in and outside schools. They launched a campaign codenamed 'Schoolyard' in which they were planning to distribute 50,000 CDs containing inflammatory neo-Nazi music to schoolchildren. Thanks to vigilant citizens, the authorities were alerted and were able to foil their plans."
Increased public awareness
The German interior minister made an impassioned plea for greater public awareness in the fight against right-wing and anti-foreigner sentiments.
Legal changes, Schily said, that had, for example, prevented the NPD from marching past Berlin's Holocaust memorial at the recent anniversary of the end of World War Two, were only part of the battle. What had been really impressive on that day, he said, were the thousands of counter-demonstrators who stopped the neo-Nazis from marching in Berlin at all.