Tighten anti-terror laws? Not so fast. From the New York Times, with thanks to Nicolei:
BERLIN, May 4 – Even as the long-awaited terrorism trial of an accused operative of Al Qaeda opened in Berlin on Tuesday, a two-year effort by this country to make it easier to imprison or expel suspected supporters of Islamic terrorism seemed to collapse because of opposition from one of the junior partners in the government coalition.
The impasse, which has created a crisis for the government of Chancellor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der, dealt a sharp blow to German efforts to enact tougher security regulations in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, which were largely carried out by Muslim extremists living in Germany.
Prosecutors outlined their case on Tuesday against Ishan Garnaoui, 33, a Tunisian-born man who was arrested in March last year. He is accused of having attended a Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2001 and, beginning in 2003, of organizing and training a group of Muslims at a Berlin mosque to carry out a series of bomb attacks against Jewish and American targets in Germany to coincide with the start of the American invasion of Iraq.
The indictment, which was read in court on Wednesday, said Mr. Garnaoui frequented Al Nur Mosque in Berlin, long believed by the police to be a center for Islamic militants. Police records are expected to show that the mosque was largely financed by a Saudi charity, known as the Haramain Foundation, long a focus of investigations in the United States and other countries.
The police records indicate that a diplomat at the Saudi Embassy in Berlin, Muhammad J. Fakihi, was a frequent visitor to the mosque and transferred money to it. Mr. Fakihi, who was director of the Islamic Affairs Department for the embassy, left the country last year after the German authorities raised questions about his possible support of Mr. Garnaoui and other Muslim militants.
According to the indictment, Mr. Garnaoui returned to Germany from Afghanistan in January 2003 with orders from Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, to carry out bomb attacks. He began recruiting Arab students and asylum seekers at Al Nur Mosque in the working-class neighborhood of NeukÃ¶lln, setting up a sports club at the mosque, the indictment says. But the club’s sessions were said to be classes in the concept of jihad, or Islamic holy war, and occasions for training in bomb-making and weapons use.
On Tuesday, however, defense lawyers disputed the prosecution’s contention that Mr. Garnaoui ever received training at a Qaeda camp in Afghanistan or became involved in terrorism in Germany.
Almost simultaneously with the reading of the indictment against Mr. Garnaoui, the long effort to negotiate a new immigration law was abandoned by the Green Party, the main coalition partner in Mr. SchrÃ¶der’s government, party leaders said. The goal of the new legislation was to change German immigration laws, which block citizens of countries that do not belong to the European Union from coming here to work while making it very difficult to expel people who come illegally or who claim political asylum – including those suspected of supporting terrorism.
The German interior minister, Otto Schily, has expressed strong support for new measures, saying in recent interviews that the German police needed ways to deal with people who present what he called “a massive threat” to Germany.
Mr. Schily caused a stir when he told a German magazine, Der Spiegel, last week that in cases in which there was a direct danger of terrorism it should be possible to take a suspect into preventive custody, or, under extreme circumstances, to carry out assassinations.
“Is there not a right of self-defense against terrorists who plan mass murder?” he asked. “That leads to the question whether in extreme cases it is justified to kill that person in self-defense.”
But in pressing for new legislation, the government ran into opposition on almost every front, from conservatives who wanted stronger security measures to Social Democrats who feared opening the doors to new immigration at a time of high unemployment. The Greens worried, among other things, that the regulations allowing easier detentions or expulsions of terror suspects would subvert Germany’s civil rights protections.