Coalition fight brews over preventive detention

Moves by the government to maintain the controversial practice of preventative detention for dangerous criminals are being blocked by members of its own coalition, the Free Democrats, setting the stage for another internal government brawl.

Coalition fight brews over preventive detention
Photo: DPA

Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière plans on Friday to push for keeping some form of preventative detention – under which dangerous criminals are held in prison after their sentences because they are still deemed a threat to the community – at a meeting with state counterparts.

But the pro-business Free Democrats’ (FDP) justice spokesman Christian Ahrendt told Friday’s edition of daily Hamburger Abendblatt that his party would oppose any such extension by their senior coalition partners the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

“To re-introduce preventative detention under the label of psychological accommodation is a sham,” Ahrendt said.

It would, moreover, be rejected by courts, which deem the detention to be “retrospective” punishment, he said.

CDU general secretary Hermann Gröhe, meanwhile, warned against “abolishing good ideas hastily without urgent cause,” telling the Hamburger Abendblatt that doing away with preventative detention altogether was “absolutely without grounds.”

The European Court of Human Rights has previously branded Germany’s use of indefinite preventative detention as illegitimate. The federal cabinet then agreed to change the law so that preventative detention was limited to serious sexual and violent offenders – but with the specification that it could not be applied retrospectively. The possibility for continued detention to protect the community would instead need to be established by a court at the original time of sentencing.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, of the FDP, has suggested that dangerous criminals be monitored after their release by electronic ankle bracelets. But many politicians both from the CDU and also from the opposition centre-left Social Democrats want dangerous prisoners instead to simply remain in jail.

Daily Berliner Morgenpost reported Friday that de Maizière planned to ask the states how they propose to deal with dangerous prisoners upon their release. He may also raise the possibility of putting prisoners who were previously in preventative detention into psychiatric institutes.

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German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.