German Justice Minister Maas admits ′mistakes′ in the lead-up to the Berlin Christmas market attack | News | DW | 13.01.2017
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German Justice Minister Maas admits 'mistakes' in the lead-up to the Berlin Christmas market attack

As the one-month mark of the Berlin terror attack approaches, German ministers have called for changes to security laws. An investigative report is expected to be released in the upcoming days.

Berlin Innenminister de Maiziere, Finanzminister Schäuble Justizminister Maas (Reuters/F. Bensch)

Justice Minister Maas (r) and Interior Minister de Maiziere (l) have had much to discuss of late

Maas' admission to mistakes occurred during a Thursday-night appearance on the popular weekly political talk show "Maybrit Illner" on the German public broadcaster ZDF.

"After what has happened and what we have learned since, it is not possible for anyone to sit down and say that no mistakes were made," Maas told German journalist and talk show host Illner.

Maas also stated that German ministries would continue to review how 24-year old Tunisian and failed asylum-seeker Anis Amri was able to execute his attack despite the fact that he had been highlighted by a German counterterrorist agency at least seven times. Though identified as a threat as early as February 2016, officials chose not to deport him after determining he posed no acute threat, reported the German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung." Amri was deeply enmeshed in the Salafist scene in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and under police surveillance in Berlin for months before the December attack, when he drove a truck into a Christmas market killing 12 people.

The German federal ministries have been reviewing their procedures in the lead-up to the attack. "A report detailing precisely who did what when and who decided what will be delivered to all involved ministries in the upcoming days," Maas told Illner. The minister also promised to review whether "legal principles" hindered officials from taking advance action.

The truck Amri drove into a Berlin Christmas market on December 19 2016 killing 12

The truck Amri drove into a Berlin Christmas market on December 19 2016 killing 12

Legal changes

Maas' statements join those of other German politicians who have called for changes in security laws. It is currently not possible under German law to detain people deemed potentially dangerous (labeled "Gefährder" by German security officials). However, Maas and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere have jointly proposed a new basis for deportation and detainment of such individuals while still maintaining the maximum detainment time of 18 months.

De Maiziere additionally appealed to the 16 federal states within Germany for better cooperation on matters of terror and security, such as consistency on surveillance. For instance, a suspect in one state who is under video surveillance should not only be under telephone surveillance in another state. The discrepancies between security measures and sharing of information across federal states has been highlighted during reviews of the Amri attack.

With respect to any changes, Maas said that "a reasonable middle ground" must be found.

Deutschland Thomas Strobl, Landesvorsitzender der CDU Baden-Württemberg (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Weißbrod)

CDU-Vice chairman Interior Thomas Strobl wants tougher security laws

CDU critics

For some in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the center-right party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the potential changes do not go far enough. The party's deputy chairman Thomas Strobl demanded an unlimited right to deport criminals and potentially dangerous individuals.

"Whoever conceals their identity and disappears, whoever is criminal, whoever is involved in dangerous groups must immediately be taken out of the asylum process. Period. They must be detained in custody until their departure."

Increased video surveillance and ankle tags have also been proposed by various politicians as possible forms of improving security.

cmb/msh (dpa, Reuters)