German justice minister looks at tougher antiterror laws skeptically

Germany's justice minister gave a skeptical response in comments published Saturday to a Cabinet colleague's call for tighter counterterrorism laws. New Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a conservative, suggested Friday that Germany could make it a crime to have attended training camps in Afghanistan, so that more potential terrorists can be prosecuted and incarcerated. He was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying that "it is often much better to lock the dangerous people up here than to deport them, if they remain active after the deportation."

Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, a member of the center-left Social Democrats, signaled serious reservations in remarks to the daily Die Welt. Zypries was quoted as saying that she could not yet see "how something like this could be framed as a criminal offense that would satisfy our principles as a state of law." "If someone has been in a camp, it does not necessarily have to mean that he poses a danger," she said, adding that "concrete evidence" is needed for a terrorism conviction.

Germany has already introduced stiffer anti-terror legislation, making membership of a foreign terrorist group a crime, after it emerged that three of the Sept. 11 pilots lived in the country. Zypries served in the previous government under Gerhard Schroeder, which introduced those changes. Germany is in the grip of a discussion about how far authorities can go in preventing terrorist attacks while respecting international law and human rights.

The debate was stoked by Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent assertion that Washington had admitted making a mistake with a German citizen who claims he was abducted and held for months in Afghanistan by the CIA in 2004, reports the AP. N.U.

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