anna on Fri, 17 Aug 2007 20:57:39 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Criminalization of critical academic research and political engagement

On July 31 my home was raided by German federal police and my partner
Andrej Holm was arrested. Our children had to endure a dozen armed
cops waking them, and us. Andrej is in prison in Berlin-Moabit since.
There are a number of initiatives protesting against this, including
two open letters to the federal prosecutor by critical researchers.
I'm still not able to write a lot, but there is information available,
most of it on the website of a group trying to support all who are

A summary: Three people were arrested while alledgedly trying to
set fire to four army vehicles. Four other people are assumed to be
members of a terrorist organisation called 'militant group' and were
observed since last September at least - Andrej being one of them
(this included tapping of phones also of family members and friends,
email observation of everybody close etc etc). Since he met one of the
other three twice this year in so-called conspiratory cirsumstances
all seven are now suspected to be 'terrorists' - even though it is
unclear why they met and what was talked about. Current state is that
the three who are said to have set fire to the army vehicles and
Andrej are imprisoned. The reasons given by the federal prosecutor
why Andrej and the three others are suspected to be 'terrorists' are
extremely incredible: researching gentrification, access to libraries
and intellectual ability are explicitely mentioned as reasons in the
arrest warrant. Their treatment in prison is considered similar to
treatment of members of RAF in the dark ages of the 70s, according to
the lawyers.

The open letters have already been signed by many international and
German academics and activists. I'll paste the text below. Please
consider signing and/or raising public awareness in any possible way.
A new lawyer's decision about the continuation of imprisonment is
expected for August 24th, so anything that raises attention before
that date may be helpful.


I'm at the moment away from computers most of the time. You can contact
einstellung[at] for more information.


Open letter to the Generalbundesanwaltschaft against the criminalization of
critical academic research and political engagement

On 31st July 2007 the flats and workplaces of Dr. Andrej Holm and
Dr. Matthias B., as well as of two other persons, were searched by
the police. Dr. Andrej Holm was arrested, flown by helicopter to the
German Federal Court in Karlsruhe and brought before the custodial
judge. Since then he has been held in pretrial confinement in a
Berlin jail. All four people have been charged with ?membership in a
terrorist association according to § 129a StGB? (German Penal Code,
section 7 on ?Crimes against Public Order?). They are alleged to be
members of a so-called ?militante gruppe? (mg). The text of the search
warrant revealed that preliminary proceedings against these four
people have been going on since September 2006 and that the four had
since been under constant surveillance.

A few hours before the house searches, Florian L., Oliver R. und Axel
H. were arrested in the Brandenburg region and accused of attempted
arson on four vehicles of the German Federal Army. Andrej Holm is
alleged to have met one of these three persons on two occasions in the
first half of 2007 in supposedly ?conspiratorial circumstances?.

The Federal Prosecutor (Bundesanwaltschaft) therefore assumes that
the four above mentioned persons as well as the three individuals
arrested in Brandenburg are members of a ?militant group,? and is
thus investigating all seven on account of suspected ?membership in
a terrorist association? according to §129a StGB. According to the
arrest warrant against Andrej Holm, the charge made against the above
mentioned four individuals is presently justified on the following
grounds, in the order that the federal prosecutor has listed them:

- Dr. Matthias B. is alleged to have used, in his academic publications,
?phrases and key words? which are also used by the ?militante gruppe?;
- 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??;
- Another accused individual is said to have met with suspects in a
conspiratorial manner: ?meetings were regularly arranged without, however,
mentioning place, time and content of the meetings?; furthermore, he is said to
have been active in the ?extreme left-wing scene?;
- In the case of a third accused individual, an address book was found which
included the names and addresses of the other three accused;
- Dr. Andrej H., who works as urban sociologist, is claimed to have close
contacts with all three individuals who have been charged but still remain
- Dr. Andrej H. is alleged to have been active in the ?resistance mounted by the
extreme left-wing scene against the World Economic Summit of 2007 in
- The fact that he ? allegedly intentionally -- did not take his mobile phone
with him to a meeting is considered as ?conspiratorial behavior?.

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 charges described in the arrest warrants reveal a construct
based on very dubious reasoning by analogy. The reasoning involves
four basic hypotheses, none of which the Federal High Court could
substantiate with any concrete evidence, but through their combination
they are to leave the impression of a ?terrorist association?. The
social scientists, because of their academic research activity, their
intellectual capacities and their access to libraries, are said to be
the brains of the alleged ?terrorist organization?.

For, according to the Federal prosecutor, an association called
?militante gruppe? is said to use the same concepts as the accused
social scientists. As evidence for this reasoning, the concept of
?gentrification? is named - one of the key research themes of Andrej
Holm und Matthias B. in past years, about which they have published
internationally. They have not limited their research findings to an
ivory tower, but have made their expertise available to citizens?
initiatives and tenants? organizations. This is how critical social
scientists are constructed as intellectual gang leaders.

Since Andrej Holm has friends, relatives and colleagues, they now also
are suspect to be ?terrorists?, because they know Andrej. Another
accused individual was blamed for having the names of Andrej Holm and
of two others charged (but not jailed) in his address book. Since the
latter are also deemed to be ?terrorists? ? this is how ?guilt by
association? is established.

Paragraph § 129a, introduced in Germany in 1976, makes it possible
for our colleagues to be criminalized as ?terrorists?. This is how,
through § 129a, the existence of a ?terrorist group? is claimed.

Through these constructs, every academic research activity and
political work is presented as potentially criminal ? in particular
when politically engaged colleagues who intervene in social struggles
are concerned. This is how critical research, in particular research
linked with political engagement, is turned into ideological ring
leadership and ?terrorism?.

We demand that the Federal Prosecutor (Bundesanwaltschaft) immediately
suspend the § 129a-proceedings against all parties concerned and to
release Andrej Holm and the other imprisoned from jail at once. We
strongly reject the outrageous accusation that the academic research
activities and the political engagement of Andrej Holm are to be
viewed as complicity in an alleged ?terrorist association?. No arrest
warrant can be deduced from the academic research and political work
of Andrej Holm. The Federal Prosecutor, through applying Article §
129, is threatening the freedom of research and teaching as well as
social-political engagement.

Initial signatures by:

Dr. Manuel Aalbers (Columbia University, New York), Prof. Dr. Rowland Atkinson
(University of Tasmania, Australien), Prof. Dr. Lawrence D. Berg (Canada
Research Chair in Human Rights, Diversity & Identity, University of British
Columbia), Prof. Dr. Neil Brenner (New York University, Sociology), Prof. Dr.
Craig Calhoun (President, Social Science Research Council, and University
Professor, Sociology, NYU), Prof. Dr. Mike Davis (Prof. of Urban History,
Irvine/USA), Dr. Michael Dear (Professor of Geography at the University of
Southern California/Los Angeles), Prof. Dr. Michael Edwards (The Bartlett
Centre for Architecture and Planning, UCL, London), Prof. Dr. Geoff Ely
(University of Michigan, Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor), Prof.
Dr. John Friedmann (University of California, Los Angeles), Prof. Dr. Herbert
Gans (Columbia University, New York), Prof. Dr. Alan Harding (University of
Salford, UK), Prof. Dr. Michael Harloe (University of Salford, Vice-President),
Prof. Dr. David Harvey (Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Graduate Center
of the City University of New York, New York), Prof. Dr. Andreas Huyssen
(Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia
University), Prof. Dr. Martin Jay (Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History,
University of California Berkeley), Prof. Dr. Bob Jessop (Lancaster
Universtiy), Prof. Dr. Roger Keil (York University, Toronto, Canada), Prof. Dr.
Rianne Mahon (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada), Prof. Dr. Peter Marcuse
(Columbia University, New York), Prof. Dr. Margit Mayer (Freie Universität
Berlin), Prof. Dr. Frances Fox Piven (President of the American Sociological
Association, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, City
University New York), Prof. Dr. Andrew Ross (New York University, New York),
Prof. Dr. Saskia Sassen (Columbia University, New York, and London School of
Economics) Prof. Dr. Andrew Sayer (Lancaster University, Sociology), Prof. Dr.
Richard Sennett (Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics,
Bemis Professor of Social Sciences at MIT, Professor of the Humanities at New
York University), Prof. Dr. William Sewell (The Frank P. Hixon Distinguished
Service Professor of Political Science and History Emeritus, University of
Chicago), Prof. Dr. Neil Smith (Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and
Geography, Director of the Center for Place Culture and Politics, Graduate
Center of the City University of New York), Prof. Dr. Michael Storper
(Centennial Professor of Economic Geography, London School of Economics, and
Professor of Economic Sociology, Science Po, Paris), Prof. Dr. Erik Swyngedouw
(University of Manchester, UK), , Prof. Dr. Peter J. Taylor (Loughborough
University, UK), Prof. Dr. John Urry (Lancaster University, Sociology), Dr.
Jennifer Wolch (Professor of Geography at the University of Southern
California/Los Angeles).

Sihn here:


To Monika Harms
Federal Prosecutor of the Federal Court of Justice

Brauerstraße 30

76135 Karlsruhe

On August 1, 2007, the socially committed Berlin sociologist, Dr.
Andrej H., was detained upon the order of the office of the federal
prosecutor. The order followed a police search of his residence and
the residences of three other academics. All three are suspected of
being members of an organization called "militante gruppe" ("militant
group"/mg), which is being investigated by the federal prosecutor's
office in accordance with §129a StGB on suspicion of the formation of
a terrorist association. The arrest warrant issued for Dr. Andrej H.
is justified by two "conspiratorial? meetings he is said to have had
several months ago with an individual taken custody during an arson
attempt on federal armed forces vehicles in "Brandenburg an der Havel"
in late July.

We strictly oppose the use of violence as endorsed and practiced by
the "militant group." At the same time, however, we strongly object
to the notion of intellectual complicity adopted by the federal
prosecutor's office in its investigation. According to Dr. Andrej
H.'s legal representative, accusations concerning his membership in a
terrorist organization have been made on the following grounds:

- the office of the federal prosecutor possesses no information
concerning the nature of Dr. Andrej H.'s meeting with the suspected
arsonists; their suspected participation in the "militant group" is
based on the fact of the meetings alone;

- according to the federal prosecutor's office, Dr. Andrej H.'s
involvement in the terrorist group can be deduced from his
intellectual engagement in subjects broached in the writings of the
"mg"; a 1998 publication of Dr. Andrej H. contained various "key
words and phrases" also found in the texts of the "militant group"
(including, for example, the term "gentrification" widely used in
urban sociology),

- the suspect, with a doctoral degree in political science and, ?as
an employee of a research institute, had access to libraries where he
could inconspicuously do the research required for the founding of a
militant group".

Such arguments allow any piece of academic writing to be potentially
incriminating. The rationale followed by the federal prosecutor's
office is a direct threat to all those who pursue and publicly defend
critical studies in the sciences, humanities, arts, and media.
Critical research, even in combination with social and political
activism, cannot be labeled terrorist activity.

We hereby petition the office of the federal prosecutor to drop the
charge that Dr. Andrej H.'s academic writings constituted intellectual
participation in a terrorist organization. Nothing in Dr. Andrej H.'s
scholarly work justifies an arrest warrant. This line of reasoning
represents a fundamental threat to intellectual and academic freedom.

Likewise, we hereby petition for an immediate cease in the
investigation of Dr. Andrej H. in accordance with § 129a StGB, which
calls for an especially harsh detention and restrictions in legal

August 9, 2007

Sign here:

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: