Germany's federal prosecutor has denied news reports that the Madrid bombings might have been planned in Germany after agents searched the apartment of a man arrested in Spain in connection with the terrorist attack.
Not a nest for terrorists after all
An initial evaluation of the case showed that the bombings had neither been prepared nor planned in Germany, Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm said on Friday. The previous night, agents had searched an apartment in Darmstadt in the central German state of Hesse, where one of 19 terror suspects arrested in Spain had allegedly lived.
Nehm said that the 28-year-old Moroccan had probably only spent a few days in Germany in the fall of 2003. He refused to confirm reports that the man had signed up as a student at Darmstadt University's electrical engineering department.
According to German public broadcaster ARD , no suspicious material was found during the search. ARD also reported that German authorities had known about the man since their Spanish colleagues had inquired about him in the summer of 2002. German security services had listed him in their computer base after that. They did not, however, register him as an extremist.
A Spanish railway worker examines the debris of a train destroyed by the attacks at Madrid's Atocha railway station.
Spanish authorities have so far arrested 19 suspects in connection with the attacks on commuter trains that killed 190 people and injured more than 1,500. Moroccan police on Friday also arrested several people in connection with the attacks.
Government coalition agrees on quicker deportation
German opposition leaders meanwhile called on the government to introduce harsher laws to deal with foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. "Islamic extremists who are willing to become violent should be deported immediately," Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber (CSU) said.
The ruling Social Democrat-Green Party coalition agreed on a policy on Friday that would streamline the decision-making process on whether to deport foreigners suspected of terrorist activity. The SPD home affairs expert Dieter Wiefelspütz said the legal procedure would go directly before the Federal Administrative Court. But he stressed that this procedure would only be implemented in individual cases of national importance that were based on facts.
"A simple suspicion is not enough," he added.
Currently, deportation cases are dealt with in a three-step process via local and regional administrative courts. The recommendation still needs to be drafted into a bill and put before the parliament.
Germany needs to fight image problem
While cautioning against introducing new legislation too quickly, Free Democratic Party leader Guido Westerwelle (photo) also demanded that the government should do everything possible to fight an image of Germany as a haven for terrorists. Several of the Sept. 11 terrorists had lived in Hamburg prior to the attacks.
Westerwelle added that it didn't matter how long the man suspected of involvement in the Madrid bombings had lived in Germany. Instead, he criticized the fact that law enforcement agencies had not kept the man under surveillance at all times and blamed a reduction in police forces for this.
Members of the governing coalition countered that people should not be deported based on suspected terrorist activities and said they would review anti-terror laws introduced after the Sept. 11 attacks in the coming weeks.