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Germany

Protesters Call for Resignation of German Federal Police Chief

About 6,000 people on Saturday demonstrated against moving Germany’s Federal Police (BKA) headquarters to Berlin. Government officials meanwhile denied reported plans to restructure the agency based on the American FBI.

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Employees are cross with BKA leadership.

Chanting “Kersten out” and “Liar,” protesters vented their anger toward BKA chief Ulrich Kersten (photo), who had allegedly planned the move to the German capital last summer while assuring agency employees that current headquarters would remain in Wiesbaden and Meckenheim in central Germany. According to organizers of the protests, many BKA employees have lost confidence in the agency’s leadership as a result.

Ulrich Kersten

BKA Chief Ulrich Kersten

On Jan. 7, German Interior Minister Otto Schily had announced plans to move the BKA’s main office from Wiesbaden to Berlin and close the Meckenheim site. Responding to protests from agency employees, the Social Democrat told German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday that he plans to rethink the move.

A waste of money?

Schily has said that improving homeland security was the main motive to bring the BKA to Berlin. Germany’s main foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), will also relocate to the capital by 2006.

Critics have described the BKA proposal as a waste of money, saying that the agency already has an office in Berlin and can handle all other matters from its current headquarters.

Wieczorek-Zeul auf einer Pressekonferenz

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul

“The BKA employees’ arguments against a move have convinced many, including the Interior Minister, I think,” said Schily’s colleague, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (photo), Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“The BKA has to remain in Wiesbaden,” said Wieczorek-Zeul, who also represents the city in Germany’s lower house of parliament and attended Saturday’s demonstration.

Ministry denies plans for German FBI

The proposed concentration of law enforcement agencies in Berlin also led to rumors about a reshuffling of duties among them. German newsmagazine Focus on Saturday reported that Schily planned to model the BKA after its U.S. counterpart, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Citing national security sources, the magazine said Schily wanted to expand the BKA’s field of work to espionage in the fight against terrorists and enemy spies. So far only the BND and Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV,) can engage in espionage.

Bundesinnenminister Otto Schily

German Interior Minister Otto Schily.

While Schily (photo) himself was on his way to the United Arab Emirates for talks on training Iraqi police officers, a ministry spokeswoman denied the report. “There are no plans in this direction,” she said.

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