Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Germany

Overview: Germany continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and the international community as a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and the GCTF. Germany continued to process significantly increased numbers of terrorismrelated investigations, arrests, and prosecutions. Law enforcement targeted a range of suspects, including Islamist terrorists (the most significant number of cases and the greatest threat, according to German officials). Law enforcement also targeted violent threats and other crimes carried out by racially, ethnically, ideologically, or politically motivated actors (an increasing trend). The government monitored approximately 800 Gefährder (i.e., dangerous persons who have not been accused of crimes but have come to the attention of law enforcement), accelerated deportations of foreign terror suspects, and actively investigated returning FTFs. The “Pact for the Rule of Law” set forth the March 2018 coalition agreement, commits, among other things, to create 15,000 new jobs in federal and state-level law enforcement agencies, and 2,000 new judiciary positions.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: On June 12, police arrested a 42-year-old Tunisian suspected of planning an attack using explosives and ricin. German police subsequently arrested his wife as an accomplice and Tunisian authorities arrested two Tunisian men connected to the plot.

On October 15, a 55-year old Syrian injured four people in an arson attack and hostage-taking at Cologne’s main train station. Federal prosecutors assumed control over the investigation of the suspected terrorist incident, citing “indications of a radical Islamist background.”

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Germany bolstered its counterterrorism tools in 2018 through amendments to the Residence Act and the Alien Act, which increase the maximum time of pre-deportation detention (from four to 10 days) and permit extensions of up to 12 months for persons formally determined to pose potential security threats (Gefährder) and are awaiting travel documents needed for deportation. New legislation allows the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to read and evaluate data from mobile phones belonging to asylum applicants without identity documents in order to confirm their identity. In May 2018, the Federal High Court ruled that overt acts in support of terrorism are required to prosecute spouses or family members of FTFs in Syria and Iraq, and that a spousal relationship with a terrorist or mere participation in family life in the conflict area is insufficient grounds for prosecution.

Counterterrorism investigations are conducted by both federal- and state-level law enforcement agencies, and coordinated through the Joint Counter-Terrorism Center, which comprises 40 internal law enforcement and security agencies. In 2018, new terrorism investigations rose significantly for the second year in a row. Approximately 500 cases opened in previous years were transferred from federal to state prosecutors in 2018, and approximately 500 carryover cases from previous years were dropped. Some counterterrorism cases are offshoots of refugee processing (for example, asylum seekers who claim to be threatened by “Islamist extremists” or falsely claim membership in ISIS or al-Qa’ida in order to increase their chances for asylum, knowing that Germany prohibits deportation to countries that impose the death penalty). Law enforcement agencies significantly increased the number of Gefährder deported in 2018, but federal officials did not supply a figure.

Germany continued to participate in international efforts to enhance border security. It has established the legislation needed to collect and analyze PNR data as required by the EU. Germany continued to participate in multilateral counterterrorism operational efforts in Africa and the Middle East. Through the GCTF, Germany co-sponsored the “Initiative to Counter Unmanned Arial System Threats” with the United States.

Significant law enforcement actions in 2018 included:

  • On October 9, German authorities extradited Iranian official Assadollah Assadi to Belgium, following a legal battle in which he unsuccessfully claimed diplomatic status following his June 30 arrest while on what he claimed was personal travel in Germany. Assadi was arrested in Germany pursuant to a European arrest warrant alleging espionage and a covert plot to attack Iranian opposition activists at a rally in France.
  • On October 15, over U.S. objections, Germany deported to Morocco Mounir el Motassadeq, a member of the Hamburg-based terrorist cell that supported the logistical planning efforts of 9/11 pilot Mohammed Atta in connection with the 9/11 attacks.
  • On May 7, the Constitutional Court re-authorized deportations to Tunisia. While German law forbids deportations when the deportee faces mistreatment in the receiving country, Germany deported Tunisian Sami Aidoudi (suspected former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden) to Tunisia on July 13, citing the country’s long-standing moratorium on enforcing the death penalty. Germany denied an appeal to overturn the deportation on humanitarian grounds on November 31.

Germany continued to examine the December 19, 2016 Christmas Market terror attack. The Bundestag and two state parliaments (North-Rhine Westphalia and Berlin) conducted hearings to evaluate law enforcement’s performance in the case, including law enforcement coordination among different agencies and states, and police practices.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany is a member of the FATF and its FIU is a member of the Egmont Group. Germany completed the transfer of its FIU to the Customs Office and hired a new FIU chief in July 2018. The FIU is working to eliminate a backlog of cases and will undergo a regularly scheduled FATF Mutual Evaluation Report in 2020. No new counterterrorism financing legislation was enacted in 2018. Germany remained a strong advocate of the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.

Countering Violent Extremism: In 2018, Germany maintained funding for existing CVE programs and earmarked a total of US $255 million for programs that target all types of terrorism, including an US $118 million National Prevention Strategy Against Islamist Extremism and special programs concerning returning FTFs and their families. The majority of programs are federally funded, led jointly by the Federal Interior and Family Ministries, and implemented locally through the States and NGOs. The program focuses on local communities, schools, and refugee integration centers; the program gives special attention to prevention and de-radicalization through the internet, refugee integration, and prisons. These programs have mandatory evaluation requirements and local research institutions have begun to engage in CVE-related research.

Augsburg, Berlin, Dresden, and Dusseldorf are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: The United States and Germany are co-leading the GCTF “Initiative to Counter Unmanned Aerial System Threats,” announced in September 2018. Germany hosted the launch event and first regional workshop of the initiative in Berlin in December 2018. Germany remains an active participant in other GCTF initiatives and hosted a regional workshop on a terrorist travel initiative in December 2018.