Germany's new terror court

4th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

Prompted by the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Germany has built its first maximum-security court designed especially to cater for terrorism trials. Frank Christiansen takes a look at the new building, which cost EUR 37 million to build and is due to hear its first case in February.

The court was set up after the September 11 terror attacks on the US

Lying on the outskirts of Duesseldorf, Germany’s new EUR 37 million high-security court for terrorist cases will make its debut in February when three members of the Islamic group al-Tawhid go on trial on terrorism-related charges.

Already dubbed "Stammheim on the Rhine" - after the high-security prison in Stuttgart which was used to hold Red Army Faction terrorists - the court complex has been built in just 12 months.

It is designed to thwart any terrorist attack. Bomb-proof concrete, bullet-proof glass and secret access routes are some of the design features.

To protect against the threat of a suicide car bomber, the building is surrounded by high-security fences and concrete blocks. Visitors will have to negotiate a series of metal gates, metal detectors and security searches to enter the building.

The entire complex is wrapped in barbed wire and monitored by security cameras.

*quote2*And no longer do enemies of the state have to be escorted by police through the streets of Duesseldorf as they did to reach the old high court's top-security building - a former police gymnasium converted in 1975 for the trial of several RAF terrorists.

Now defendants can be whisked by helicopter to landing pads on the complex's roof.

"The dress rehearsal went fine. We managed to land two helicopters on the roof," said Wolfgang Druschel from North Rhine-Westphalia' state building and property department.

During proceedings, defendants will be separated from the public by bullet-proof glass and held in custody in one of 19 cells. Extra cells have been built to detain any troublemakers among the public.

The main courtroom has room for 15 defendants, 60 lawyers, 30 security personnel and 145 members of the public.

Authorities have also learned from the experience of previous trials. During hearings at the old high court involving the so-called "caliph of Cologne" Metin Kaplan, Moslem visitors flooded the visitor WCs by using the toilet basins for ritual washing.

*quote1*As a result, the new building features a footbath for Muslims in the public lavatories.

The construction of the 5,000-square-metre complex has been shrouded in secrecy with the architect's name never released and even the construction workers sworn to silence.

However it has emerged that the state and federal governments failed to put in writing who was to pick up the tab for the costs of the building.

The government in Berlin says Duesseldorf High Court - and therefore the state of North Rhine-Westphalia - is using the building and therefore has to pay the rent.

But the state's justice minister, Wolfgang Gerhards, maintains the government should foot the bill as most trials will be on charges against the interests of Germany brought by federal prosecutors.

Opposition politicians have already called for Gerhards' resignation should the state be left with the bill.

February 2004


Subject: German News 

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