OpinionMeister

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Are Europeans Serious About Terror?

Reuters reports on how difficult it is to get a conviction in Europe of terrorists caught with plans and equipment for an attack or bombing, if they have not yet actually carried out the attack or bombing. Link.
BERLIN (Reuters) - Failed terrorism prosecutions in Germany and the Netherlands this week have highlighted Europe's patchy record in securing convictions and prompted some to ask if laws need to be tightened.

Ihsan Garnaoui, a 34-year-old Tunisian, was acquitted in Berlin Wednesday of trying to form a terrorist group, even though judges considered it proven that he had planned to carry out at least one bomb attack in Germany at the start of the Iraq war in March 2003.

The same day, Dutch teen-ager Samir Azzouz was cleared of planning attacks on Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, a nuclear reactor and government offices.

He had been found in possession of machinegun cartridges, mock explosive devices, electrical circuitry, maps and sketches of prominent buildings and chemicals prosecutors said could be bomb ingredients.

Legal experts and security analysts said such cases raise a difficult question: in the absence of an actual attack, how close must a suspect be to detonating a bomb before prosecutors can demonstrate guilt?

They also highlight the irony that early intervention by security forces to thwart a bombing may make it harder to obtain convictions. (...)

Rainer Wendt, vice president of the German Police Union, said the existence of an attack plan should have been sufficient. "This verdict is completely incomprehensible to the police, and dangerous in its effect," he told Reuters. (...)

Maxime Verhagen, Christian Democrat leader in the Dutch parliament, said tougher laws might be needed.

"I ask myself whether the men who flew into the twin towers could have been convicted in the Netherlands if their plans had been intercepted in good time," he said.

It is good to read that some parliamentarians want updated laws to deal with the situation of Islamic terrorism. Let us hope that they have an easier time than the Bush administration is having in trying to renew the Patriot Act.

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