Georg Weßling, a spokesman for the Lower Saxony Justice Ministry, announced that the five prisoners at Celle prison took their last meals on Monday morning and had since refused food. Three of the five have also launched legal action against state Justice Minister Bernd Busemann.
They are all being held under Germany's preventive detention laws, meaning they have served their original jail sentences but are considered too dangerous to release. Both Germany's Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights have deemed the preventive detention system illegal and demanded an overhaul.
Among other things, the hunger-striking prisoners are demanding free access to the internet, pay TV and conjugal visits. They are basing their demands on the May decision by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that preventive detention needs to be fundamentally different from an ordinary prison sentence.
While a prison sentence was in part society's punishment for a crime committed, preventive detention was purely to prevent future crimes being committed, the court said.
The court ruled that the changes must come into effect by May 31, 2013. Weßling said that meant authorities were currently in an interim period.
“We are speaking to the people involved and hope for their understanding,” he said.
Three of the prisoners are suing Justice Minister Busemann under articles one and two of the constitution, which guarantee respectively human dignity and the freedom for personal development.
The state prosecutor in the town of Lüneburg is examining the claims.
The Lower Saxony government is building a new wing at the Rosdorf prison near Göttingen to meet the demands of the Constitutional Court.
“But some of the requirements can neither be met in Celle nor Rosdorf,” Weßling.
Twenty prisoners are currently being held on preventative detention at Celle prison.