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Guantánamo in Germany
de The Guardian, 21.08.2007
In the name of the war on terror, our colleagues are being persecuted - for the crime of sociology. By Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen
'Terrorism" has two faces. There are real threats and real terrorists, and then again there is a realm of nameless fears, vague forebodings and irrational responses. The German federal police seem to have succumbed to the latter: on July 31 they raided the flats and workplaces of Dr Andrej Holm and Dr Matthias B, as well as of two other people, all of them engaged in that most suspicious pursuit - committing sociology.
Dr Holm was arrested and flown to the German federal court in Karlsruhe; he has since been put in (pre-trial) solitary confinement in a Berlin jail. Of course the police may have solid, rational knowledge they are withholding, but their public statements belong to the realm of farce. Dr B is alleged to have used, in his academic publications, "phrases and key words" also used by a militant group, among them "inequality" and "gentrification". The police found it suspicious that meetings occurred with German activists in which the sociologists did not bring their mobile phones; the police deemed this a sign of "conspiratorial behaviour".
Thirty years ago Germany had a terrible time with indisputably violent militant groups, and that leaden memory hangs over the police. And it may well be that "gentrification" is a truly terrifying word. But this police action in a liberal democracy seems to fall more into Guantánamo mode than genuine counter-espionage.
Consider the hapless Dr B a little further. He's not actually accused of writing anything inflammatory, but seen rather to be intellectually capable of "authoring the sophisticated texts" a militant group might require; further, our scholar, "as employee in a research institute has access to libraries which he can use inconspicuously in order to do the research necessary to the drafting of texts" of militant groups, though he hasn't writtten any. The one solid fact the cops have on Dr Holm is that he was at the scene of the "resistance mounted by the extreme leftwing scene against the World Economic Summit of 2007 in Heiligendamm", perhaps mistakenly believing he is studying this scene rather than stage-managing it.
These are not reasons for Brits, any more than Americans, to cluck in righteous disapproval; in the long, sad history of the IRA, reality and fantasy entwined in an ever tighter cord. But, apart from hoping that our colleague Dr Holm will be freed if only he promises to carry his mobile phone at all times, we are struck by the grey zones of fragile civil liberties and confused state power that this case reveals.
The liberal state is changing. In the 60s, Germany had the most enlightened rules for refugees and asylum seekers in Europe; the US passed the most sensible laws on immigration in its history; France granted automatic citizenship to all those born on its territory, including all Muslims. Today all these countries have, in the name of the war on terror, revised their rules - the state of emergency prevails. The laws meant for real threats are invoked to counter shapeless fear; in place of real police work, the authorities want to put a name - any name - to what they should dread. States of emergency are dangerous to the legitimacy of states. In cases conducted like this one, a government stands to lose its authority and so its ability to root out actual terrorists.
If our colleagues are indeed dangerous sociologists, they should be prosecuted rationally. But, as in Guantánamo, persecution seems to have taken the place of prosecution.
Richard Sennett is a sociologist at the London School of Economics; Saskia Sassen is a sociologist at Columbia University
r.sennett [at] lse.ac.uk
Protests over terror arrest of German academic
The Guardian, 21.08.2007
Academics from around the world have protested to Germany's federal prosecutor about the arrest and detention of a Berlin sociologist who is accused of associating with a terrorist group - apparently on the basis of his academic work. By Kate Connolly in Berlin
Andrej Holm, from Berlin's Humboldt University, who specialises in urban gentrification, was arrested three weeks ago on suspicion of aiding a militant organisation suspected of carrying out more than 25 arson attacks in Berlin since 2001.
In protest letters the academics from across Europe, the US and Canada said Mr Holm's arrest was based on his academic writings, and the evidence used to connect him to terrorism was at best flimsy.
The federal prosecutor's office arrested Mr Holm on August 1 under paragraph 129a of the anti-terrorism law, citing the repeated use of words such as "gentrification" and "inequality" in his academic papers, terms similar to those used by the urban activist organisation "militante gruppe" (mg). According to the prosecution report the frequency of the overlap between words used by Mr Holm and the group was "striking, and not to be explained through a coincidence".
It also cited the fact that he had twice met three men who were arrested on suspicion of involvement in an arson attack in Brandenburg on July 31 and who are accused of belonging to the mg. The prosecutor's office said it added to the "conspiratorial circumstances" that he did not take his mobile phone to the meetings.
The fact that he and another academic had access to a library meant they were "intellectually in a position to compile the sophisticated texts of the 'militante gruppe'," the prosecutor's office said.
In one of the letters, signed by more than 100 academics, the federal prosecutor, Monika Harms, was urged to release Mr Holm from his single-cell in Berlin's Moabit prison. "We strongly object to the notion of intellectual complicity adopted by the federal prosecutor's office in its investigation ... such arguments allow any piece of academic writing to be potentially incriminating," the academics said.
Mr Holm, 36, made a name for himself with his research into the effect of urban renewal on residential areas of the German capital since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"The police may have solid knowledge they are withholding, but their public statements belong in the realm of farce," Richard Sennett, a sociologist at the London School of Economics, and Saskia Sassen, a sociologist at Columbia University, wrote on Guardian Unlimited's Comment is Free site. "This action in a liberal democracy seems more to fall into Guantánamo mode than genuine counterespionage."
The Guardian, 21.08.2007
Professor's Research Results in Terrorism Charges
All Things Considered, August 21, 2007 · Prominent German academic Andrej Holm was arrested three weeks ago on terrorism charges. According to the arrest warrant, Professor Holm was linked to a militant group because of his research into "gentrification."
Robert Siegel talks with Kate Connolly, Berlin correspondent for The Guardian newspaper.
Guilty by Association
The Suspected Terrorist Dr. Andrej Holm. By Anders Mikkelsen
German academic Dr. Andrej Holm is the father of three children and lives in Berlin. He is a sociologist interested in the power relations of gentrification and urban renewal and is a critic of German government policies. He is also a suspected terrorist and under arrest in solitary confinement.
On July 31st 2007 the home of German academic Dr. Andrej Holm was searched by the German Federal Police. He was then arrested and flown by helicopter to the German Federal Court in Karlsruhe and brought before the custodial judge. This father of three children has been held in the Berlin-Moabit awaiting trial. He was charged with "membership in a terrorist association according to § 129a StGB" (German Penal Code, section 7 on "Crimes against Public Order"). He and three other people were charged with belonging to a "militant gruppe"/"mg" which is a militant group or terrorist organization. Several other academics also had their homes searched, and all had been under surveillance since September 2006.
Several hours before the academics had their homes searched, Florian L., Oliver R. und Axel H. were arrested in the Brandenburg region around Berlin and accused of attempted arson of four German Federal Army vehicles. These three are suspected of other acts of arson.
The four are detained in solitary confinement:
"Andrej H., as well as Florian L., Oliver R. und Axel H., are detained since 1st August 2007 in Berlin-Moabit under very strict conditions: they are locked in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and are allowed only one hour of courtyard walk. Visits are limited to a total of half an hour every two weeks. Contacts, including contacts with lawyers, are allowed only through separation panes, including contact with their lawyers. The mail of the defense is checked."
The Federal Prosecutor (Bundesanwaltschaft) is investigating all seven, as they are suspected of "membership in a terrorist association" according to §129a StGB.
Of the academics, only Dr. Andrej Holm was arrested. According to his supporters, he is alleged to have met one of these three suspected arsonists on two occasions in the first half of 2007 in supposedly "conspiratorial circumstances." According to the German Government – "This [arrest as a suspected terror group member] is the result of among other things the fact of comprehensive conspiratorial contacts and meetings in particular with the accused of Florian L." "Dies ergibt sich unter anderem aus der Tatsache umfassender konspirativer Kontakte und Treffen insbesondere mit dem Beschuldigten Florian L." The German Federal Prosecutors do not want to hinder an ongoing investigation so they have made no more information available.
Note that Dr. Andrej Holm, according to the German Government Web Site, is arrested only for suspected membership due to meeting with only one of the accused. How dangerous is this group? The primary suspected activity of this group is arson of vehicles – most recently government vehicles. He was not arrested for doing or planning anything. This is an admission that he is only guilty by association.
Why He’s Guilty
The only information anyone has explaining the reasons for Dr. Andrej Holm’s suspected membership in a terrorist organization is the warrant.
According to US Professor Peter Marcuse
The prosecutor’s files include some 200 folders with approximately 80,000 pages, presumably including many of the publications of the four academics. The details aren’t yet clear, because the prosecutor’s office is short-staffed and hasn’t had time to Xerox the contents for the defendant’s lawyers. According to Indymedia, "a substantial part of the documents consists of analyses of… comparisons of formulations and punctuation of texts [of the defendants with the writings of the mg.] Is the word "imperialism" used, is G8 written G-8 or G8, is the IWF [IMF] referred to." And, frequently, "gentrification."
According to the text of the warrant, Dr. Andrej Holm and the alleged arsonists are suspected of using similar keywords and phrases in their writings. That is how they know he’s a member in the group – as well as meeting one member a couple of times. It is suspected that Dr. Andrej Holm is contributing to texts created by the alleged arsonists. Everyone’s favorite example is the word gentrification, which is on only 2,400,000 web pages and is a common English term for anyone discussing urban social or real estate trends.
As political scientist holding a PhD, Matthias B. is seen to be intellectually capable to "author the sophisticated texts of the ‘militante gruppe’ (mg)". Additionally, "as employee in a research institute he has access to libraries which he can use inconspicuously in order to do the research necessary to the drafting of texts of the ‘militante gruppe’"
Apparently the alleged arsonists are not qualified to write their own texts, and a suitably qualified academic had to be found. One wonders if the alleged arsonists could not be charged with writing texts without a license.
They also appear to associate Dr. Andrej Holm with G-8 protestors. When the G-8 summit was in Rostock Germany in 2007 the 16,000 German police faced 25,000 to 80,000 protesters. There were multiple incidents of violence by both sides. Total number of injuries is unclear, but was probably hundreds on each side. It is probable the police view anyone associated with the protestors as probable terrorists.
I have no indication that Dr. Andrej Holm advocated any sort of violence. Sociologist Rainer Rilling says
His political and academic publications, most of which I am familiar with, neither call for damage to property – even though most critical urban sociologist might have a hard time suppressing such desires – nor for violent assaults on persons, let alone for terrorist attacks. He also never tried to justify them. The whole affair stinks to high heaven.
Academic Terrorist or Terrorized Academic?
This appears to be a case of guilt by association. Dr. Andrej Holm is not an advocate of violence. He is not accused of planning or committing any acts of violence. He is accused of membership in a terrorist group – that is to say association with suspected terrorists. Even this is tenuous as he appears to have only met one member a few times, and the crux of the association is the similarity between the group's writing and his. This assumes that the terms and phrases aren’t common jargon, and the group couldn’t have liked his writing and plagiarized or borrowed heavily.
This is quite disturbing. Apparently in Germany one can meet a couple times with someone one shares some common interests with but doesn’t really know and doesn’t necessarily agree with on all issues, and one can become a suspected member of any organization the new acquaintance belongs to. Just because two people agree on problems in society doesn’t mean that both agree that violence and terrorism are the answer. This is an ominous attack on free speech and freedom of association.
Hopefully there will be enough international outrage to force the prosecutors to release Dr. Andrej Holm or come up with real charges. It is unfortunate that civilized countries like Germany or the US continue to violate the people’s rights. It is extremely worrisome to imagine that this trend of criminalizing our right to free association and free speech might continue to expand to include more and more people.
Once again within a few months we are forced to witness the dirty movements of the BAW (General Federal Attorney): on the 31st of July, three comrades got arrested near Berlin, allegedely after having placed some incendiary devices under a few military trucks. A forth person has been arrested in his apartment, accused of being one of the people who wrote the communqués of the group. Three other comrades are (at the moment) with free feet, but under investigation. For what exactly? Paragraph 129a, terrorist association: all of them are accused of belonging to the Militante Gruppe, a clandestine group active since 2001.
We borrow some words from the anti repression website Gipfelsoli in order to clarify the happenings of the last three months.
This is the third of such operations within the last three months in Germany.
As of May 2007 there have been several raids following four investigative procedures based on paragraph 129a in Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen, Strausberg and Bad Oldesloe:
* On 9 May based on allegations of "forming a terrorist organisation for the purposes of stopping the G8 summit" (under various group names, 18 persons) as well as "membership in a terrorist organisation (militante gruppe, 3 persons, based on attacks which took place since 2001).
* On 13 -19 June based on allegations of "forming a terrorist organisation (under several group names, e.g. AK Origami). The allegations focus on arson attacks on vehicles belonging to the military and to a company involved in arms manufacturing in Glinde (2002), Bad Oldesloe and Berlin (2004 and 2006).
* On 31 July based on allegations of "forming a terrorist organisation" (Militante Gruppe, 4 persons arrested, 3 others searched and under investigation).
The federal criminal bureau explained several times to the press that the following house searches had neither anything to do with the raids on 9 May nor with the anti-G8 movement. However, as previous experience in 129-related investigations and trials has shown, search warrants can be obtained based on construed "research findings". This allows the authorities to gather additional information on the radical left movement. In this way, these "findings" contribute to investigative procedures in respect to future attacks; "facts" which are supposedly "linked" with G8. Only 2% 129a cases lead to conviction.
The investigative files on the 9 May raids alone add up to about 80,000 pages, about 200 notebooks. Apart from the raids, dozens of phone-tapping permits have been issued, as well as bugging cars and meetings. A witness who supposedly identified a "suspicious person" after the arson attack on Thomas Straubhaar's car turned 80 photos in to the federal criminal bureau.
Some of the persons concerned are accused of initiating a "militant group" against the G8 2007. These allegations are based on telephone conversations where members of the "Global Agriculture" working group spoke of "stepping up" the campaign. The accused became suspects after visiting the web sites of the companies they are criticising or having spoken on the phone about the locations of the companies. This campaign would necessitate IT experts who specialise in setting up mailing lists, servers and managing web sites.
A large part of the files consist of analyse of "self-incriminating writings." This entails comparing how sentences are formulated, punctuation, grammatical errors such as "weakness in the genitive case," or whether letters are capitalized. Additional factors looked at are where the date is placed (right or left of the page), written with or without zeros, use of words such as "imperialism" or "precarity", references made by the author to particular campaigns and left groups, whether the spelling is "dissent!", "dissent" or "Dissent" (G8 or G-8 ) etc. Comparisons are also made between texts for similar expressions such as "raking in the money", "IWF", etc.
After every analysis a profile is drafted of potential authors of the text: city of origin, political affiliations, educational background, and position of the author within their political spectrum. Some of the texts are subsequently attributed to specific persons.
Data is compiled on the accused house mates, with whom s/he has phoned, phone and internet service providers, at which demonstrations the accused was detained, or which collaborative projects the person is working on.
Much of the data is not intended for exclusive use in the investigation of a particular case. On the contrary, it appears that inquiries for further information collection regardless of context were placed by the BKA at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz), political "crime unit" of the BKA. In any case, the circumstances clearly indicate that the authorities have probed extensive information on the radical left and anti-G8 movements since the beginning. Surveillance permits for the radio cells in and around Mehringhof (autonomous left center in Berlin) and the HWP high school were requested for at least the first two "dissent!" network meetings in Hamburg and Berlin, both of which were attended 250 persons. In this vein, the authorities probably have logged every mobile phone which registered with the local network there. The presence of informants at the meeting itself also comes as no surprise.
All in all, after being lost in the darkness for long time, while the "Militant campaign against the G8" (a 2 year long militant campaign spreaded all over Germany, carried on from different automous groups, involving hundreds of arsons and property destruction attacks) was striking hard especially in northern Germany, repressive forces did try to put an end to this organising these frame ups, before and after the G8 summit.
It was their attempt to intimidate militant and uncompromised resistance, but it did not really succeeded, neither in undermining the solidarity inside the different areas of the autonoumous movement, nor in stopping the militant attacks.
So far a short summary of some facts.
What interestes us even more, is to spend few words about solidarity.
A positive thing to be noticed, is the good solidarity which developed immediately after the first raids in May.
On the same night, demonstration took place everywhere, in Germany but not only, with Hamburg and Berlin on top of the cake.
Hamburg saw a spontaneous demonstration with more than 2000 people, with some clashes afterwards, and Berlin brought up to 5000 people on the streets, all under the motto „We are all 129a!, „We are all Militante Gruppe“.
As well, many direct actions followed the days after, among them one by the Militante Gruppe which torched two police vans.
The goal of repression forces, to intimidate any radical resistance against G8 and capitalism, did not worked out as planned.
Above all, very few voices (mostly heads of Attac and such, but not their basis) were distancing themselves from the people under investigation or the militant resistance. Also a very positive sign.
As well, some comrades in northern Germany have been already „invited“ from the Federal General Attorney (BAW) to make declarations about their comrades under investigation for the 13 – 19 June operation.
The first person who received this „invitation“ went with other 40 solidal comrades to the cops, declaring she refuses to declare anything, and ready to face its consequences.
In Germany if you are called as witness and you refuse to testify, you can be held up to 6 months in detention. The last case happened with the infamous Magdeburg trial, where several people refuse to testify against their comrades and one of them sat almost 6 months in prison following his refusal to cooperate.
Back to this last strike against the alleged Militante Gruppe, it is a fact that three comrades are now sitting in jail under the usual heavy conditions. From the very beginning on, many expressions of solidarity have been spoken especially in regard to one of the prisoners. He was not arrested within an alleged arson attack, and he works at the university, so he has a certain kind of status in the eyes of many people. It does not seem like a difficult thing for most people to give him solidarity as a criminalized teacher, victim of some dodgey police frame up. And we, of course give him all our solidarity as well!
In the meanwhile, as we are writing this text, we are able to welcome this comrade out of prison!
He came out after paying a caution (bail), but it is yet unclear if he will be able to remain outside until the possible beginning of a trial.
The federal criminal attorney declared already that they will fight against the decision of letting him out.
On the other side, for a large number of people, such as the normal citizens, university teachers and wannabe politicians within our movement, it is a way more an undefendable thing to show support for those who perhaps enterprised an arson attack against some death machines of the German army.
Some people fear to be categorized as MG supporters or simply as „ready to use violence“ from State forces, others condemn absolutely any form of violence, even the one against mere things.
Generally some prefere to pay the price of not talking too much about the three comrades, because then it would result a difficulty to keep all the aforementioned different supporters on the same boat.
We want to join the (many) voices out of the chorus and reclaim the need to show open support for the ones who might even found „guilty“ of some illegal action.
We do not distinguish between innocents and guilties: this category do not belong to our anarchist background, neither we think should belong to any sincere left radical and similars.
We must be capable of expressing our full support for anyone who is fighting with his/her favourite means against this present society, let them feel they are not alone and that we stand with them and for their eventual actions; of course, this solidarity would not exclude a permanent, critical debate with our comrades.
Therefore it is extremely important to not let ourselves be split between the usual „good“ and „bad“, the normal game played by the State and Capital. It is important to show a clear and critical support to all our imprisoned comrades, without any distinction.
And we are happy to see that there are several voices screaming the same, to tell the truth well more than expected, a good sign, as well as witnessing many solidarity actions within the last couple of days.
Indeed, two rallies have been held in front of the prison where the comrades are being held, just as soon as they got transferred there, both were quite well attended with an average of 300 comrades; but, even before this, one night following the arrests, a car of the federal constitutional court got torched in Berlin.
A few days later an attempted arson against a justice building, in Berlin again, threw the cops and media into a panic.
Last weekend several cars belonging to companies involved within the nuclear transport got burned, and among them a car property of the German army.
Meanwhile, a well attended solidarity meeting took place, many calls to solidarity have been spread, leaflets distributed, banners dropped and money organised.
To make it clear again: we do not let ourselves be frighten, but rather we choose to struggle further than sitting home merely writing postcards to the prisoners (although this is a very important part of our struggle as well).
It is also worh noting that the participation of reformists groups such as Attac bases and large part of the university world are also within the solidarity campaign.
At the Attac summer camp, 400 people made a spontaneous demonstration following the arrests, chanting „we are all terrorists“ (!).
This is probably just a papertiger origined by the fact that one of the defendant is a sociologue, it is well worth to notice that perhaps some other people around began to ask themselves a few more radical questions about the actual state of things.
However, this occasion has been used to propose a general campaign for the abolition of the paragraph 129a and b, and to go on the offensive generally against social control: a large demonstration, planned also from reformists groups for the 22nd of september, will see the appearance of a large, autonomous block against social control and the abolition of the aforementioned infamous paragraph.
The extended usage of this paragraph seeks the criminalization of our resistance, and in countries like Spain and especially Italy, where it is used virtually every two months, it has become a scary normality.
Are we heading in the same direction?
As we wrote once in our brochure „Repression against Italian anarchists“, it is just a matter of time until every friendship will be catalogued under this paragraph.
We repeat it again, for us there is only one terrorist organization, and that is the State.
Therefore it seems a big contradiction how people who actively oppose it are compared to one of the main organization of death and terrorism, such as the army, are being now called terrorists!
Something everybody can reflect on.
In closing, we do not have to forget that the problem is not only represented by the imprisonment of the ones close to us, but even more by the existence of the prison itself.
The existence of those grey walls, is a threat to us all and we must fight for its destruction, day by day.
Freedom for Axel, Florian, and Oli!
For the suspension of all pragraph 129a and b inquiries!
Freedom for all!
Destroy all prisons!