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Appeal for Calm

Article based on news reports (sms)
July 29, 2007

After weeks of flaring tempers and tit-for-tat public exchanges, leading German politicians called for the country to approach the issue of proposed anti-terror laws in a calm and objective manner.

A debate over whether the police should be able to search people's hard drives is ragingImage: dpa zb

Without explicitly naming those involved, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Chief of Staff Thomas de Maiziere called Sunday for politicians in Germany to be more sober-minded when addressing measures intended to protect the country from terrorist attacks.

"Germany is not an oasis, we are also threatened by terrorism," he said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "That has to be responsibly explained to the public. The tone of the debate is very important."

Schäuble and Zypries at a table
Schäuble, left, and Zypries have gone eye-to-eye on several issuesImage: AP

But statements from Maiziere, who also said that the country should not abandon its democratic principles out of fear, may be coming too late to have much of an effect.

German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries was called a "national security risk" by a state interior minister and numerous attacks were mounted against an initiative to allow online computer searches presented by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Zypries, as well as other members of the Social Democratic Party, part of the chancellor's ruling grand coalition, have come out against the computer search proposal. In an op-ed published Friday in the Frankfurter Rundschau she said clear limits needed to be placed on security measures in order to protect civil rights.

Some restrictions apply

SPD party head Kurt Beck agreed and added that his party was willing to consider permitting online searches of computer data if certain conditions were met.

"We have to carefully weigh whether it is necessary and if it is even legally possible," Beck told the mass-market Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "We are dealing with a sensitive area of privacy. The people affected have to have a legal means to defend themselves from searches of their private information."

The judges of the Federal Constitutional Court
A verdict from the Constitutional Court is expected in early 2008Image: AP

Sebastian Edathy an SPD parliamentarian said the Bundestag should wait until the country's highest court rules on the constitutionality of a similar law enacted in one Germany's 16 states.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court is scheduled to hear a case dealing with North Rhine-Westphalia's online search law in October.

"It would be foolish for us to make a decision that, in light of the judges' verdict, would have to be corrected or revised," he told the taz newspaper. "The subject can be discussed, but it's not ready for a decision."

Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein, however, said such online searches should be implemented as soon as possible, calling them an important tool for authorities in fighting terrorism. He also accused Zypries of keeping police from using all the means at their disposal to prevent terror attacks.

"I think Mrs. Zypries' behavior is indefensible because it creates a hole in the security net and that can be very dangerous for Germany," he told the Passauer Neuen Presse.

As opinions on the issue continue to heat up, Maiziere said he would do everything in his power to bring the political parties to a compromise by the end of August.