German minister proposes tougher security laws after attacks

The proposals include making it easier to deport foreigners deemed dangerous and stripping dual nationals of their German citizenship

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Germany’s interior minister on Thursday unveiled proposals to boost security after recent attacks, including making it easier to deport foreigners deemed dangerous and stripping dual nationals who fight for extremist groups of their German citizenship.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere’s plans also include creating several thousand jobs at federal security services over the coming years and making “promoting terrorism” a criminal offense.

Four attacks last month included two carried out by asylum-seekers and claimed by ISIS. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany won’t be deflected from giving shelter to people who deserve asylum, but also pledged to do “everything humanly possible” to keep the country safe.

“A lot of people ... are worried about further attacks. That is understandable,” de Maiziere told reporters. “No one can guarantee absolute security, but we must do what is possible.”

He said Germany will consider joining other countries in screening the public social-media profiles of people being admitted to the country under formal resettlement programs and would start a pilot project to judge its effectiveness.

De Maiziere also wants to strengthen German authorities’ ability to probe the darknet, an area of cyberspace invisible on the open internet.

The minister proposed making it easier to take foreigners who have committed crimes or otherwise are deemed to be dangerous into pre-deportation custody, making “endangering public security” a ground for jailing them. That’s meant to make it easier to ensure people who are obliged to leave the country actually do so.

He said it’s already possible to strip German citizenship from dual nationals who fight for foreign armies, so it’s reasonable to apply the same rule to those who fight for a “terror militia” abroad.

De Maiziere also pointed to ongoing efforts to toughen German and particularly European Union weapons laws.

Two of the attacks in a weeklong period starting July 18 - an ax rampage near Wuerzburg that wounded five and a suicide bombing that injured 15 outside a bar in Ansbach - were the first in Germany to be claimed by ISIS. Both attackers, asylum-seekers who arrived over the past two years, were killed.

In two other attacks - a shooting by a German-Iranian 18-year-old in Munich that claimed 10 lives, including the assailant’s, and the fatal stabbing of a woman by a Syrian asylum-seeker at a restaurant in Reutlingen - the motive is still unclear but Islamic extremism is not suspected.

The attackers in Ansbach and Munich had received psychiatric treatment in the past.

In response, de Maiziere said the government will discuss with doctors ways to “minimize dangers to citizens as far as possible” but stressed that patient confidentiality rules will be upheld.

In Germany, doctors can face a fine or up to a year in prison for breaching patient confidentiality, though existing rules already allow them to do so “in order to safeguard a higher-ranking legally protected interest.”

De Maiziere said he was limiting himself to proposals that could be implemented quickly, and said he considered them “politically reasonable” for the center-left junior party in the conservative Merkel’s governing coalition. De Maiziere is a member of Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats.

He said he hopes that many of the measures can be introduced before a national election expected in September next year.

Some Christian Democrats, keen to bolster the party’s law-and-order credentials ahead of the national election, as well as two state elections next month and three next spring, have called for further measures such as a ban on all-body veils worn by some Muslim women.

De Maiziere made clear, however, that such a ban is “constitutionally problematic” and isn’t in the cards.

“You can't ban everything that you reject,” he said.