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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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.