President enters debate over terrorism policy

16th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

16 July 2007, Berlin (dpa) - German President Horst Koehler joined in the debate Sunday over controversial proposals by the country's interior minister to combat terrorism, including internment without trial and the possible targeted killing of terrorist suspects.

16 July 2007

Berlin (dpa) - German President Horst Koehler joined in the debate Sunday over controversial proposals by the country's interior minister to combat terrorism, including internment without trial and the possible targeted killing of terrorist suspects.

Koehler urged Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to show restraint in presenting ideas which he said could unnecessarily unsettle the population.

It was the duty of the minister "to wrack his brains" over the best way to protect citizens, the president said in an interview on Germany's second television channel ZDF. But the staccato "manner in which the suggestions came about" was not ideal.

Schaeuble called for legal powers to intern terrorist "combatants" before they struck and said that Germany might have to introduce a US-style criminal offence of conspiracy to commit a crime.

The minister, who outlined his thoughts in the news magazine Der Spiegel last week, also proposed a ban on the use of the internet and mobile phones by people the state deemed to be dangerous.

He also called for clarification whether the constitution permits the state to target and kill terrorists, citing the case of Osama bin Laden.

"Imagine someone knew what cave Osama bin Laden is sitting in. A remote-controlled missile could then be fired in order to kill him," the minister told der Spiegel.

President Koehler said he had his own doubts whether "the killing of a suspected terrorist without a court ruling could be treated so lightly."

The minister's remarks, particularly those about targeted assassinations, provoked outrage in Germany, with opposition Greens party leader Claudia Roth calling on him to resign.

A statement issued by the interior ministry on Sunday said Schaeuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), had been misinterpreted in this context.

At no time "except in the hypothetical case of bin Laden" did the minister "make any demands for targeted killings against terrorists or terrorist suspects," the ministry said.

Neither did he call for federal legislation along these lines. The prosecution of terrorist actions was solely a matter for the courts to deal with, the statement added.

But the Social Democrats (SPD), who have been in a power-sharing government with the CDU since November 2005, warned that the minister's remarks could threaten the continuation of the coalition.

"The grand coalition cannot put up for ever with what Schaeuble is doing," said Ralf Stegner, SPD interior minister in the northern state of Schleswig Holstein. "Frau Merkel has to tell him, 'enough is enough,'" he said in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

SPD chairman Kurt Beck accused Schaeuble of being excessive and losing sight of his goals.

"His proposals far surpass the current constitutional consensus. He wants to protect freedom to death," Beck told Sunday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Schaeuble's proposals came in the wake of the failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow. Germany had a similar scare in July last year when authorities defused two suitcase bombs Islamic militants placed on trains.


DPA

Subject: German news

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