German legislators look into Libya police training activities

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A parliamentary watchdog group quizzes the head of Germany's foreign intelligence service BND about the secret training of Libyan security forces by off-duty policemen.

9th April 2008

Berlin - Ernst Uhrlau answered questions posed by members of the parliamentary control panel, which met in a closed-door session to examine the sensitive matter.

An army sergeant and more than two dozen active or former members of an elite German police unit conducted training seminars in Libya between 2005 and 2006 while moonlighting for a private security firm.

Interior Ministry state secretary August Hanning was also grilled about the training, which came at a time when Libya was emerging from its status as a pariah state.

The head of the control panel, Thomas Oppermann, said Monday's questioning had shown the BND had shadowed the operation but was not actively involved in it.

He said BND agents had passed on the information they gathered to their superiors, who considered the matter to be of insufficient importance to inform Uhrlau, the BND president.

The government has denied it was aware of the instruction, which reportedly included how to storm buildings, abseil from helicopters and board ships.

The sergeant is under suspension, while eight policemen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia have been disciplined, including one facing a criminal probe relating to the misuse of secret documents.

The officer admitted to taking part in a training seminar but denied using classified information, prosecutors who are studying documents seized from the man's home said.

The issue has caused a stir in Germany amid fears that secrets about police training methods might have been divulged to the Libyans.

The Germans were hired by a security firm called BDB Protection founded by a former police commando. The now insolvent company reportedly received 1.6 million euros (2.4 million dollars) from the Libyans, paying each of the men around 15,000 euros for their services.

They carried out the training without the knowledge of their superiors while on holiday or after taking unpaid leave, according to media reports.

A foreign ministry spokesman admitted Monday that a member of the German embassy spoke to the head of the security firm at a sports festival in Libya, but said it was just a chance meeting.

The control panel chairman said the firm had been operating legally in Libya.

Once a backer of terrorism, Libya has taken a more pro-Western course in recent years, although it still comes under fire from rights groups over its human rights record.

Interior Ministry and BND officials visited Libya twice in 2006 for talks on improved security cooperation, but nothing ever came of the discussions, the interior ministry said.




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