Germany: Unlawful ‘anti-terrorist’ investigation into G8 activists
For political activists in Germany, the G8 summit entailed a great deal of work in organising blockades and accommodation for the thousands people who came to protest in Heiligendamm in June 2007 (80,000 people demonstrated on 2 June in Rostock, 20,000 people remained for a week in camps around Heiligendamm and 10,000 people took part in peaceful blockades). It also triggered a large scale secret service and police investigation into political activist scenes across the country. Anti-terrorist powers were applied to demonstrators, subjecting them to undercover surveillance, interception of telecommunications, police raids of homes and work places and the confiscation of computers and personal data. Around 2,000 people are said to have been affected by the surveillance. A series of court rulings have since declared the investigations unlawful and almost all of the charges have been dropped due to lack of
evidence. However, their purpose, to collect data on political activists, disrupt their activities and map their social networks and activities, has been achieved.
The latest investigation to be dropped due to lack of evidence concerns 11 anti-fascist activists from Bad Oldesloe who were subjected to an anti-terrorism investigation under Article 129 and 129a of the Criminal Code (StGB) in the run-up to the G8 summit, and more specifically a house raid on 17 June 2007.
The Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) decided in January this year that a series of investigations launched by the Federal Public Prosecution (Bundesanwaltschaft – BAW) against individuals in multiple German cities on grounds of formation of a terrorist organisation (Article 129a StGB) had no basis. The BGH passed the cases back to the responsible regional public prosecution offices to test whether they had merit on grounds of formation of a criminal
organisation (Article 129 StGB).
In June this year, the Flensburg regional court declared the raids unlawful and found the accusations under Article 129 to be without merit, before any charges had been brought. The decision by the BAW’s investigating judge to allow the house raids was thefore also unlawful. Apart from their houses being raided, the 11 anti-fascists were subjected to internet and telephone interception, including the interception of their conversations with journalists and their lawyers, as well as being tailed and the surveillance of private homes.
Noteworthy is the complacency surrounding these privacy violations and the – by now standard – practice of using anti-terrorist laws to curtail, control and intimidate left-wing political activists without any evidence of their engaging in criminal activity.
Parliamentary questions have not prompted the government into justifying these civil liberties infringements as the government’s answer to a question by the Left Party (Die Linke) in parliament reveals. Several MPs sought clarification as to how, and against which activists, the anti-terrorist legislation was being used; how many procedures were initiated on grounds of the "support and promotion" of a terrorist organisation and whether investigations had led to any charges and convictions. It appears that the authorities do not distinguish between the uses of anti-terrorist measures against Islamic or left-wing activists in their statistics. Nor do they distinguish between the "support" or "promotion" of a terrorist organisation and the formation of, or active involvement in, one. They only collect data separately on its use against the right-wing scene.
According to the government, 62 procedures were initiated against Islamic and left-wing groups, specifically against 103 individuals, and 845 persons were subjected to interception of telecommunications. In contrast, three procedures were initiated against the right, with only one person charged; no one on the right had their telecommunications intercepted.
A closer look at the annual statistics on the use of Germany’s anti-terrorist legislation shows that less than five per cent of the criminal investigations initiated on grounds of Article 129a StGB led to proceedings, and only one per cent led to charges brought in court. Alexander Hoffmann, one of the lawyers of the eleven accused from Bad Oldesloe, argues that:
"Article 129a is a political legal instrument – and is used accordingly by the Federal Public Prosecution. In this case also, the Article (as the Flensburg regional court ruling has now confirmed) served primarily to initiate the surveillance and criminalisation of unwanted opposition groups and their surroundings."
It was appropriate then that Monika Harms, the Federal Public Prosecutor (Generalbundesanwältin) who authorised the anti-terrorist measures to be applied against left-wing activists in the run-up to G8 summit, won Germany’s 2007 Big Brother award in the category “Government Authorities and Administration”. The Big Brother jury gave her the award
for the measures taken against opponents of the G8 summit and found two aspects particularly dubious and therefore prize worthy:
First, Ms Harms sought approval from judges at the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, Germany’s appeals court in cases of civil and criminal law) to carry out systematic postal surveillance in Hamburg, in search of letters from militant G8 opponents claiming responsibility for an arson attack. As a consequence, all letters in the affected districts
of Hamburg were inspected for suspicious external features.
Second, Ms Harms gave instructions for body scent samples to be collected and preserved from G8 opponents suspected of militancy. This caused investigators to seriously intrude into the private sphere and individual rights of the people affected.
The application for postal surveillance as well as the order to gather scent samples were connected to the searches of 40 private homes, offices, cultural centres and internet servers, under § 129a of the German Criminal Code (StGB), which penalises joining terrorist groups. This placed leftist groups and globalisation critics under suspicion of terrorism before the G8 summit even began. These methods have not led to the uncovering of any terrorist plots, but rather to widespread state snooping, data registration and processing. This illicitly gathered information will likely be used to chart social relations between potential G8 protesters and their opponents.
Solidarity websites with background information on various anti-terrorist investigations against left-wing
activists: http://soligruppenord.blogsport.de/, http://einstellung.so36.net/
“Soll ich dir meine Datensammlung zeigen?’, Thorsten Mense, Jungle World no. 33, 14.8.08;
Press release by the defence team (Britta Eder & Alexander Hoffmann) of the eleven accused of Bad Oldesloe, 13.6.08;
Question to the German Government on investigations initiated on grounds of Article 129 StGB and related Articles in the year 2007, Drucksache 16/9941, 7.7.2008
Answer to the Question to the German Government on investigations initiated on grounds of Article 129 StGB and related Articles in the year 2007, Drucksache 16/10045, 24.7.08
Germany’s Big Brother Awards 2007
See also Statewatch Vol 17 no 2 July 2007, and Gewaltbereite Politik und der G8-Gipfel.
Demonstrationsbeobachtungen vom 2-8 Juni 2007 rund um Heiligendamm [The G8 summit and violent- prone politics. Demonstration observations from 2-8 June 2007 around Heiligendamm]. Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie, 2007.
This article first appeared in Statewatch Supplement, November 2008.
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