German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said he would give the order to shoot down a plane that has been hijacked for an attack, despite a ruling by the country's constitutional court banning such action.
Is German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung above the law?
"If there were no other way, I would give the order to shoot it down to protect our people," Jung told Focus magazine, according to an advance extract from its Monday, Sept. 17 issue, which was made available on Sunday.
In 2006, Germany's highest court scrapped a controversial law allowing the military to shoot down civilian planes suspected of being hijacked for terrorist attacks. It ruled that the law was an infringement on the right to life and the right to human dignity.
"But if there is a common danger or the democratic order is in danger, other rules apply," Jung said. "I would like a clarification of the constitutional law, but there is still no consensus in the coalition (government) on this point. Therefore, in an emergency, I need to have recourse to a method that goes above the law."
Minister above the law?
Earlier this month, Germany arrested three Islamic terrorists
Jung' statements triggered a storm of criticism from other German politicians.
Social Democratic domestic policy expert Dieter Wiefelspütz criticized the minister for "openly counting on a breach of constitution", while Left Party politician Petra Pau accused him of "playing God."
A former vice president of the German parliament, Burkhard Hirsch, of the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) said "this was the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany that a minister openly declares he would disregard the ruling of the constitutional court and order that a crime be committed, if he deems it right."
Support for Jung's radical view came from members of his own -- and Chancellor Merkel's -- conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
"In our current legal situation, that is really in the end his decision," CDU defense expert Bernd Siebert told Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper. "And in the situation which he described, he would have to act accordingly.
"Franz Josef Jung has our full support," Siebert said.
Terrorist threats remain
He wants tougher security measures: Wolfgang Schäuble
Earlier this month, Germany arrested three men -- two German converts to Islam and a Turkish Muslim -- accused of planning "massive" terrorist attacks, possibly on US military facilities in the country.
But Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in a Sunday newspaper that the risk of a terrorist attack remained high despite the arrests of these men.
"The terrorist threat has not diminished," Schäuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
"I am no less worried since the arrests. We know that we are in the sights of Islamist terrorism."
Schäuble said experts were convinced that extremists would one day attack with nuclear weapons.
"Many experts are convinced that it is a question of when, not if," he said. "There's no point in spoiling the time that we have left by getting hysterical about the end of the world beforehand."
Schäuble has been under fire in Germany for pushing for a tougher security policy that would allow the indefinite detention and "targeted killing" of terror suspects.