Wrong to suspect converts to Islam: top prosecutor

13th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

13 September 2007, Karlsruhe, Germany (dpa) - It would be wrong to cast a general cloud of suspicion over converts to Islam, German Attorney General Monika Harms said Thursday, following the smashing last week of an alleged Islamist terrorist cell.

13 September 2007

Karlsruhe, Germany (dpa) - It would be wrong to cast a general cloud of suspicion over converts to Islam, German Attorney General Monika Harms said Thursday, following the smashing last week of an alleged Islamist terrorist cell.

The revelation that two of those arrested on September 4 for planning potentially devastating bomb attacks against US targets in Germany were Germans who had adopted Islam provoked debate on the radicalization of converts.

Speaking to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in an interview, Harms said many converts to Islam were peaceful, although watchfulness was needed.

But she added: "We can't cast suspicion on entire population groups. That's not acceptable, and nobody wants that."

Reports Wednesday that a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) had advocated an official register of converts sparked outraged responses from all sides.

Wolfgang Bosbach later denied he had made the remark attributed to him, but the debate continued nevertheless.

In her interview, given in the south-western city of Karlsruhe where the highest court is located, Harms came out in favour of covert online monitoring of internet traffic as essential to combat the activities of terrorists,

"Islamist terrorists are increasingly using the opportunity to communicate in code with each other," she said.

"They are avoiding phones and mobile phones," she said.

The attorney general was responding to a debate, which was initiated earlier this year by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and gained new life following last week's arrests.

Confiscating computers was ineffective, as the suspects were alerted as a result, Harms said.

But she added she was in favour of "high legal hurdles" and that the searches should be restricted to "a small number of serious offences."

Schaeuble, a CDU member, has backed using a so-called "government Trojan" to track internet traffic between suspected terrorists.

He has run into opposition, in particular from members of the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in Merkel's broad coalition.

Recent statements from senior SPD members indicate the party is wary of Schaeuble's scheme for practical reasons, rather than on grounds of principle.

The party intends to wait for a ruling expected next year from the Karlsruhe-based Constitutional Court before deciding on its position.

On the question of making attendance at terrorist training camps punishable - all three of those arrested last week underwent training at camps in Pakistan last year - Harms said she believed current German law already made this illegal.

But she acknowledged legal difficulties, "because not everyone who goes to a training camp immediately turns into a terrorist."

Harms said there were clear indications that those arrested last week, plus a further seven suspects still being monitored, were receiving instructions from abroad.

"The arrest warrant alleges membership of both a domestic and also a foreign terrorist association. There were links and influences. Those active here were not working on their own," she said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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