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Schäuble: Facts Obtained Through Torture Should be Used

DW staff (nda)
December 16, 2005

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble wants information which may have been extracted from suspected terrorists through torture to be used in court as he searches for greater powers in Germany’s own "war on terror."

Germany's interior minister is looking to expand his powers in the fight against terrorImage: AP

Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble wants information which may have been extracted from suspected terrorists through torture by a third party to be admissible in court as he searches for greater powers to prosecute Germany's own "war on terror."

Schäuble told the Süddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published Friday said it would be irresponsible not to use information obtained through torture to prosecute "dangerous persons" in a trial while maintaining that German security services themselves would "by no means" use torture during interrogations.

"If we said that, under any circumstances, we should not use information where we cannot be sure that it was attained under conditions completely in line with the rule of law, then this would be absolutely irresponsible," Schäuble told the paper, as quoted by news magazine Der Spiegel. "We must use such information."

He stressed that the German security services were clear where the borders of a state under the rule of law were.

"There can be no torture," he said and added that even the suggestion of torture to extract statement from terror suspects would not be used by German agents.

Schäuble's comments come as investigations gather pace all over Europe into confidential CIA flights and the existence of secret US military prisons on the continent where suspected terror suspects have been held and allegedly tortured.

Zammar's detention in Syria bearing fruit

Mohammed Haydar Zammar
Mohammed Zammar was transfered to Damascus by the CIAImage: AP

The minister of the interior also took the opportunity to once more justify the questioning of Mohammed Zammar by officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in a Syrian prison in which the use of torture is also suspected. Zammar is a German citizen and associate of the Hamburg terror cell that led the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States who was captured by the CIA in Morocco in 2001.

"A few months in custody have already produced some information," Schäuble said. "There are no signs to suggest that Zammar has been tortured. Zammar has said to the BND that he has been hit, however, not in Syria, but in Lebanon or somewhere else where he has been before, and not in connection with the examination."

Schäuble added that the majority of the German people wanted their politicians to do all they could to keep them protected but that those with responsibility must pay attention to how far their efforts go. Politicians must not be allowed to be "unrestrained" in the quest for security.

However, some Germans have expressed outrage at the treatment of Zammar and the conditions in which he is being kept in the notorious Far-Filastin prison, a facility in the basement of the Syrian military intelligence headquarters which human rights groups claim is a torture center. When suspected crimes lead a person to be detained in such a facility, Schäuble said that no-one could expect "a hotel room with a jacuzzi."

Schäuble: Terror training should be punishable

Satellitenaufnahme von militärischen Trainingslagern in Afghanistan herausgegeben vom amerikanischen Verteidigungsministerium
Schäuble wants anyone who undertook training in a terror camp to be punishedImage: AP

Schäuble also told the newspaper that he wanted to push the law to be more effective in the fight against terrorism. He wants suspects where there is no firm evidence only suspicion to be allowed to be brought to court. In addition, Schäuble wanted "the graduation from an education in terrorism, from a camp in Afghanistan or anywhere else" to be a punishable act from now on.

The conservative minister's desire to take on tough new terror laws is seen to be the passing of the torch from his Social Democrat predecessor Otto Schily. Schily's hard-line proposals, including preventive custody for terror suspects, had been rejected in the coalition negotiations. But Schäuble's plans seem to elaborate on Schily's and push for penal custody of suspects.

Schily's 2002 security package included laws making it illegal to be a member of a terror group. Schäuble's looks to want to punish those who exhibit the behavioral patterns of members, even if no official allegiance is recognized.

Schäuble wants Bundeswehr deployed at World Cup

Ein Soldat der Bundeswehr
If the interior minister gets his way, Bundeswehr troops will be deployed on home soilImage: AP

In terms of homeland security, the interior minister announced a basic law change that would allow the deployment of the German armed forces in a national capacity, with the 2006 World Cup in mind. In the coalition negotiations, this subject -- along with air security proposals -- had been left to the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court. The judgment is expected in February.

Such deployment is currently only legal in exceptional circumstances and with the support of both houses of parliament. Germany's constitution, written in 1949 with the lessons of Nazi rule in mind, establishes strict separation between police and military. Under the Nazis, the line between the two became blurred, leading to a militarized police state.

"During the World Cup, for example, our federal and state police forces will be very stretched," Schäuble said. "Why shouldn't we transfer security services temporarily to the armed forces from the police to relieve them." Schäuble added that the armed forces could be used to guard stadiums, airports and team quarters.

"No one wants to see tanks in front of train stations or stadiums, this is completely absurd," he said. "Yet you can imagine what would happen if somewhere a bomb in a back pack would explode."

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