4th Dec 2020

Terror suspect freed on European warrant glitch

  • Mr Darkazanli is accused of having close ties to the 9/11 attackers (Photo: EUobserver)

Germany's constitutional court has ordered the release of a man accused of financing al-Qaeda and due for extradition to Spain under the EU's arrest warrant scheme.

The judges did not challenge the warrant in principle, but rather its implementing legislation as adopted in Berlin.

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The German-Syrian businessman, Mamoun Darkazanli, was arrested last October in Hamburg on suspicion of supporting terrorist activities through his German-registered company.

He featured on a video with two of the three Hamburg-based hijackers that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Washington had previously frozen his assets, which were considered to be a financial source for the international terrorist network.

The Spanish authorities investigating the Madrid bomb attacks also included Mr Darkazanli on a list of suspects and asked their German counterparts to extradite him on the basis of the EU's arrest warrent.

The warrant was adopted in 2002 and provides for cooperation between the bloc's law-enforcement authorities in criminal matters.

It beefed up previous extradition rules in member states, as it allows for the handing over of not only foreign suspects but also countries' own nationals, if prosecutors from other states demand it.

But Germany's highest court ruled that the country's implementing legislation on the EU warrant is flawed and cannot be used to extradite German citizens, which implies that Mr Darkazanli should be set free.

The decision could also see other German suspects facing extradition, or already in jail in other countries, being released.

Not protective enough

The court's main argument was that German legislation was not sufficiently protective of its own nationals, who could be required to be expelled for doing something which is lawful in their own country but not so in other EU member states.

For their part, Mr Darkazanli's lawyers argued that Germans can only be handed over and tried abroad when the crimes they are accused of are not subject to prosecution at home.

But the German authorities had investigated him for several months in connection with the US attacks and did not charge him.

Commenting on the ruling, a European Commission spokesman said the current state was "not very helpful", adding that the EU executive hoped the German authorities would hurry up and redress the deficiencies in their national laws so that the European arrest warrant "would work again in Germany".

A similar case is also being monitored in Poland, where a constitutional court ruled against the national legislation related to the warrant.

But Polish judges decided the current system could remain in place until the end of 2006, by which time a new law should be adopted.

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