eveline lubbers on Wed, 22 Aug 2007 14:48:15 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Guant?namo in Germany

Arrested because *not* carrying your mobile to a meeting is suspect!

See comment by Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen below

Protests over terror arrest of German academic

Kate Connolly in Berlin
Tuesday August 21, 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.

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 Guant?namo mode than genuine counterespionage."


Guant?namo in Germany

In the name of the war on terror, our colleagues are being persecuted -
for the crime of sociology

Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen
Tuesday August 21, 2007
The Guardian

'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
Guant?namo 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

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 Guant?namo, 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


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