28 March 2012
On 4 January, the Federal High Court (Bundesgerichtshof) ruled the police raids from 9 May 2007 against activists organising the protesters against the G8 summit in Heiligendamm unlawful. The court decided that the investigation had not been within the remit of the Federal Public Prosecution (Bundesanwaltschaft) because the activists had not formed a terrorist organisation, a claim which police and prosecution had used to subject activists to disproportionate surveillance measures, interception of telecommunication and - one month before the summit - a large-scale raid on 40 private homes, offices and social centres of the autonomous left-wing scene in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen and Lower Saxony (see Statewatch Bulletin vol 17 no 2).
This is the third time the High Court has reprimanded German law enforcement and public prosecution in its application of anti-terrorist powers. In October 2007 the High Court had overturned an arrest warrant against a Berlin activist and sociologist who had been accused - in a separate investigation on a militant group who had set fire to army vehicles - of membership of a terrorist organisation on grounds of his choice of words in his articles on urban gentrification and his political activism during the G8 summit. Here also the Court found no sufficient evidence for the public prosecution's allegations. A month later it ruled unlawful the indiscriminate interception of letters from 100 letter boxes in an alternative district in Hamburg on 22 May 2007 in the framework of the G8 investigations.
In response to the Court's ruling, Hans-Christian Ströbele, deputy chairman of the Green Party parliamentary faction, accused the public prosecution in a press release of unlawful conduct and demanded the rehabilitation of those affected by the police measures by way of material compensation and the immediate deletion of unlawfully collected personal data. The latter, he argued, should be monitored by the relevant data protection officers.
Despite growing critique by NGOs and media commentators of the application of anti-terrorist legislation and police intervention violating fundamental democratic rights in Germany, the government parties continue the defend the disproportionate surveillance and investigation measures against political activists. However, Federal Public Prosecutor Monika Harms seems to be experiencing one investigative failure after another in the pursuance of an apparently non-existent terrorist organisation threatening the structures of the German state. For this is the definition of terrorism since the transposition of EU law to the national level in 2003. To qualify as terrorism, crimes, in their nature or context, have to
"seriously damage a country or an international organisation [and be] committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, or unduly compelling a Government or international organisation, to perform or abstain from performing any act, or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation."
This definition, however, seems to continue being ignored by the public prosecution in their attempt to delegitimise and criminalise any form of protest, thereby, some argue, mocking democratic principles and the rule of law. Activists and other civil society actors have therefore decided to find alternative definitions of terrorism and called for citizens to answer the questions of "what is terrorism".
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