Germany denies involvement in Libya police training

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The German government has denied any involvement with a private security firm that used German police and a soldier to train Libyan security forces.

7th April 2008

Berlin - An army sergeant and 30 active or former members of an elite German police squad conducted training seminars in Libya between 2005 and 2007 while moonlighting for the security firm.

Press reports had indicated that the German embassy in Tripoli and the country's foreign intelligence service BND were aware of the instruction or acted in an advisory capacity.

Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said government ministries "were at no stage" involved in the planning or realisation of the training seminars.

Wilhelm said there were official contacts between Libya and Germany involving security matters, but these related to the fight against international terrorism, organised crime, drug smuggling and people trafficking.

A defence ministry spokesman said a sergeant with a Berlin-based troop unit had been suspended while a disciplinary investigation into his role in the training programme was being carried out.

The issue has caused a stir in Germany amid fears that secrets about police training methods might have been divulged to the Libyans. It is expected to be raised in parliament on Wednesday.

Eight policemen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia have been disciplined for their involvement, including one facing a criminal investigation relating to the misuse of official documents.

The BND denied any involvement in the training programme, which reportedly included instruction on how to storm buildings, abseil from helicopters and board ships.

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 press 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.

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.

The mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper said Germany agreed to the secret training as a favour after Libya helped secure the release of a German family held hostage in the Philippines in 2000.

It said the matter was discussed when then chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi in 2003 and 2004. A spokesman for Schroeder called the claim a fabrication.

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