Jesal — Guantánamo in Germany

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Guantánamo in Germany
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
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
—-Original Message Follows—-
From: Jack Amariglio
Reply-To: jamar@GIS.NET
To: AESA@listserv.nd.edu
Subject: terrorism
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 23:38:58 -0400
more about the situation that enid posted to this list last thursday
(the 16th). two additional things from today.
Dear colleague,
today I want to inform you about an outrageous event which I would have
thought to be impossible in a democratic Germany. Two weeks ago our
colleague Andrej Holm – he is the author of the PRESOM study on
privatisation research in Europe – was, together with three other
persons – arrested under the allegation of “membership in a terrorist
association”. Since then he is under arrest.
The charges against Andrej and the others are mainly based on the
observation, that:
– in their scientific publications they use concepts which can also be
found in the leaflets of a so-called “militant group” which is
under observation by the police in Berlin; as such concepts the general
attorney names “gentrification” or “precarisation” , about which Andrej
has done extensive research and published nationally and
– the intellectual capacity to write such intellectually high-level
pamphlets as are known from the militant group,
– access to libraries which they can use to do research necessary to
draft such texts.
These accusations as such are obviously absurd, because they apply to
the majority of the scientific community. The fact that
they are used as justification for arrest and severe accusations is
nevertheless alarming. It seems that a thorough intimidation of all
critical scientists is envisaged, and therefore we are all possible
further targets of such activities.
Meanwhile the protest against this authoritarian and antidemocratic
procedure has become rather strong in Germany and has by now
reached an international dimension. Last weekend the yearly conference
of the American Sociology Association published an open letter to the
federal general attorney, analysing the procedure of the authorities as
the construction of a terrorist group, protesting against the arrest of
Andrej, and requesting his immediate release. I attach this open letter
and invite you to join the list of signatories. You can do this by
writing to the solidarity group in Berlin at (einstellung@so36.net) or
by replying to my present letter indicating your support of the open
letter (which I will then forward to the solidarity group).
Best greetings,
Jacqueline Runje
PRESOM Coordination Assistant
University of Dortmund
Faculty of Spatial Planning
Institute of Spatial Planning
Subject Area: Political Economy
August-Schmidt-Str. 10
D-44227 Dortmund
Phone: +49-(0)231-755-6423
Fax: +49-(0)231-755-4788
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