London Times | July 19, 2005
By Roger Boyes
A SUSPECTED al-Qaeda operative was released from jail in Germany yesterday after the country’s highest court blocked his extradition to Spain on a new EU arrest warrant.
The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-German businessman, was entitled to protection under a law which says that German citizens cannot be extradited for trial abroad. The suspect’s basic rights had to be guaranteed, even when the extradition request came from a fellow EU country, the court said.
Mr Darkazanli, 46, was released from custody in Hamburg a few hours later.
The ruling appears to deal a severe blow to pan-European efforts to co-ordinate the fight against terrorism. The whole architecture of the European arrest warrant — a key component in counter-terrorism strategy — was left looking distinctly shaky. An EU Commission spokesman said: “We appeal to Germany to remedy as quickly as possible the deficits in the enabling law.”
Brigitte Zypries, Germany’s Justice Minister, said that she hoped to put forward an amended law within six weeks to allow the extradition to take place.
Spain accuses Mr Darkazanli of being Osama bin Laden’s “permanent interlocutor and assistant” in Europe. Spanish authorities believe that he had close contact with the terrorists who organised the attacks on the Madrid trains on March 11 last year.
Mr Darkazanli is alleged to have been bin Laden’s confidant since 1997 and to have conducted business deals for al-Qaeda in Germany, Spain and Kosovo. He appears in a wedding video with two of the three suicide pilots involved in the September 11 attacks, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, who lived and studied in Hamburg along with Mohammed Atta, the leading hijacker.
Mr Darkazanli denies any links to bin Laden. He has never been charged in Germany but has been under police observation in Hamburg for years; the police have not been able to establish that he committed any crime on German soil. Spain decided to use a European arrest warrant to bring him to trial in Madrid.
The Constitutional Court, which was split in the ruling, said the constitution made clear that the state was obliged to protect its citizens from judicial abuse abroad.