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Germany in Brief

Hamburg police test Harley-Davidson motorcycles; foreigners suspected of crimes may be deported to countries that torture prisoners; dispute over diesel tax buried and more.


Since 1908 police have been driving Harley-Davidsons.

Hamburg police drive Harleys

Seven Harley-Davidson motorcycles with sirens and walkie-talkies were delivered to the Hamburg police on Tuesday. The public servants in the northern German city will be the first in the country to patrol the streets on the American bikes with the cult following. Hamburg police will receive a total of 20 "Electra Glide" Harley-Davidsons to test over the coming year. They already have 30 BMW motorcycles. "Citizens expect the police to be there fast in an emergency," Hamburg Senator Ronald Schill said of the newly delivered bikes.

Torture won't stop extradition

German authorities may extradite foreigners suspected of crimes to countries where police torture prisoners, the country's highest court has decided. The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe dismissed a lawsuit filed by a national of the Pacific island Vanuatu and said the former Indian citizen, who was arrested in Munich in 2002, was not personally in danger of being tortured if extradited to his one-time home country. Indian prosecutors have accused the man of embezzling €2.1 million ($2.4 million) from a local bank. The court pointed out that although torture is wide-spread among police in India, it is illegal and the state increasingly punishes human rights abuses. Foreign nationals would only be protected from deportation if human rights abuses were methodical and prevalent in the foreign country or if it could be determined that their was a concrete danger that they would be tortured there. The German constitution forbids deporting people if they will be subjected to unbearably hard, cruel or inhumane punishment.

Book Fair stays in Frankfurt

The Frankfurt Book Fair, the publishing industry's biggest trade fair, will remain in the banking city until at least 2010. City authorities confirmed that the Frankfurt Convention

Center and the Association of German Publishers and Booksellers, which runs the fair, had signed a contract ensuring the event will continue to be held in the town on the Main River. "It was a hard battle, but the efforts paid off in the end," mayor Petra Roth said. "In the end the advantages and quality of Frankfurt as a location prevailed." Book fair director Volker Neumann had threatened to move the convention to Munich early this year. He complained that hotel prices during the fair and prices for exhibitors' stands were too high. But in April the organizers said the fair would stay in the city.

Environment minister backtracks on diesel tax

"I am not and was not an advocate of an increase in diesel tax," Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin said on Tuesday after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder rejected the possibility the day before. "We don't want a diesel soot contribution to the tax reforms, instead we want to lower limits throughout Europe. Trittin had said on Monday that if German car manufacturers remained so obdurate when it came to diesel soot filters, tax rates could be adjusted. Trittin stressed that soot emissions from diesel cars in Europe should be lowered by 90 percent. A study carried out by the German Federal Environmental Agency (FEA) revealed that 14,000 people die every year from inhaling particles from diesel exhaust fumes. Installing filters to stop the particles only costs €200 - €400, FEA head Andreas Troge said.

Hamburg to get new maritime museum

An international maritime museum will be established in a historic warehouse in the new harborfront Hafencity being built in central Hamburg, Mayor Ole von Beust announced on Tuesday. The museum will be made up of the collection of former publishing house manager and marine historian Peter Tamm. The Hamburg senate agreed to give the Tamm Foundation €30 million to support the new museum.

Compiled with material from news agencies.