Police training conducted by German experts in Libya was a repayment for Tripoli's help in securing the release of German hostages in the Philippines, according to a German newspaper report.
Diplomats denied police training was part of a secret reward for help freeing hostages
The issue of training Libya's security forces was discussed in 2004 at a meeting between then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday, April 6.
The meeting took place in the African nation four years after Libya helped broker the release of a group of foreign tourists, among them a German family, held by Muslim rebels on the Philippine island of Jolo.
At an earlier meeting between Schroeder and Gaddafi in 2003 the issue of a return service for the hostage release was discussed, the newspaper said, quoting security sources.
Diplomats, however, denied that help freeing the hostage was repaid with police training.
"There was no such deal," diplomatic sources told the AFP news agency.
The Wallerts were taken hostage in 2000
A Libyan mediator helped obtain the release of the German Wallert family members, who were among a group of foreigners kidnapped at a diving school in Jolo by the Abu Sayyaf rebel group on Easter Sunday 2000.
Renate Wallert was freed after 86 days in captivity, her husband Werner after 127 days on Aug. 27. Their son, Marc, was released nearly two weeks later as the final hostage in the group. Unconfirmed reports said Libya paid around 21 million euros for the hostages' release.
Foreign Ministry denies involvement
In apparent confirmation of a report released Saturday by Der Spiegel newsmagazine, Bild said the German embassy in Tripoli was informally briefed on the training seminars conducted between 2005 and 2007 by around 30 members of an elite police unit and a soldier moonlighting for a private security firm.
The Foreign Ministry on Sunday, however, issued a statement denying any involvement in the training of Libyan police authorities.
The issue has caused a stir in Germany amid fears that secrets about police training methods might have been divulged to the Libyans. The Bundestag, the lower house of German parliament, is due to discuss the issue on Wednesday.
As many as 30 Germans are suspected of having a role in training Libyans
Training was provided to Gaddafi's security forces by German bodyguards tasked with protecting the Bundeswehr's highest-ranking officer, Inspector-General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Berlin daily Tagesspiegel am Sonntag reported.
A sergeant serving with a crack unit of mountain troops has been suspended while an investigation into his alleged role in the operation is under way.
Eight policemen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia are also facing disciplinary proceedings, including one who is subject to a criminal investigation relating to the inappropriate use of official documents.
Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said the Bundestag would not have approved training for Libyan forces.
"There is no doubt that Libya is run by an unfair regime," he told German public broadcaster ARD. "Had the officers requested permission for their work, it would have certainly been refused."
Politicians called the officers' behavior unacceptable
German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung has condemned the officers' behavior, saying, "This should under no circumstances be accepted."
Germany's foreign intelligence service BND denied any involvement in the training program, which reportedly included instruction on how to storm buildings, abseil from helicopters and board ships.
The Germans were hired by a security firm called BDB Protection founded by a former police commando. The now insolvent company reportedly received 1.6 million euros ($2.4 million) from the Libyans, paying each of the men around 15,000 euros for their services.
They carried out the training without the knowledge of their superiors while on holiday or after taking unpaid leave, according to press reports.
Once a backer of terrorists, Libya has taken a more pro-Western course in recent years, although it still comes under fire from rights groups over its human rights record.