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Sociologist Andrej H Remains Free (on bail) - Latest Developments from Germany

researcher | 31.08.2007 08:03 | Culture | Repression | World

Important news from Germany, where the Federal Prosecution has postponed the appeal hearing by prosecutors who wanted to put Andrej back into solitary confinement after he was released on bail. The postponemnt is to allow time to examine the application of the terrorism law in this case. This is a huge issue. Below see latest campaign press release and also an article from Der Spiegel (Germany's most influential weekly magazine).

See this Indymedia feature for some background:

And previous update:
Andrej is free again.. for now

More info at:

Berlin, 30th August 2007

Press Release

Sociologist Remains Free. Federal Prosecution postpones the decision to
revoke temporary release

Yesterday afternoon the Third Criminal Division of the Federal Court of
Justice declared that the decision over the appeal against Andrej H.'s
temporary release from custody has been postponed until October.
According to the judge there are outstanding legal questions as to
whether the anti-terrorist legislation, the "129a", can even be applied
to this case at all. The lawyers acting on behalf of Florian L., Oliver
R. and Axel H. believe that this discussion over the premises of the
charges will also have an effect on their clients' situation.

"The Federal Prosecution is completely lost over its construction of a
terrorist organisation", Volker Eick, a spokesperson for the Coalition
for the Immediate End to the 129a Proceedings, said. "The accusation of
terrorism against the three people arrested in Brandenburg is based upon
two meetings with Andrej H. Whatever is decided, we demand the immediate
release of Oliver, Florian and Axel", Eick added.

For Andrej H. the judge's decision means he will remain out of custody
until the beginning of October. "We are of the opinion that this will
continue to be the case because by October the claim that he may abscond
will be have been clearly shown to be false", Eick stated.

Further information in English:

Telephone number:

Christina Clemm
Tel.: +49-30-25293336

Coalition for the Immediate End to the §129a Proceedings
c/o Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte e.V.
Greifswalder Strasse 4
D-10405 Berlin


Berlin Struggles to Define 'Terror'

By Caroline Schmidt and Dietmar Hipp

Just what who is a terrorist? It is a question Germany is wrestling with
after a Berlin sociology professor was imprisoned for terrorism after
allegedly helping leftists torch cars.

Forty-year-old Berlin lawyer Christina Clemm was just 10 during the
so-called German Autumn of 1977: Her recollections of the historic
showdown between the German state and its enemies, the left-wing
underground organization known as the Red Army Faction or
"Baader-Meinhof Gang," are vague. But when Clemm visited her client,
36-year-old Andrej H., in Berlin's Moabit prison early last week, the
atmosphere there was reminiscent of those dark years of leftist terrorism.

The lawyer was only allowed to shake her client's hand in the presence
of a prison guard. A plate of bullet-proof glass an inch thick separated
them during their conversation. In addition, Clemm's mail was
intercepted. Andrej H. told her he was being held in solitary
confinement 23 hours a day. He was only allowed out for exercise for one
hour a day with two other prisoners. He is being held under paragraph
129a of German criminal law -- the paragraph that deals with terrorism.

And yet the academic -- who holds a Ph.D. in sociology, lectures at
Humboldt University in Berlin and has three children -- is not even a
prime suspect in the arson investigation that led to his arrest,
according to the warrant. The federal prosecutor's office believes H.
and an academic from Leipzig are the intellectual leaders of the
left-wing "militante gruppe" (mg), a left-wing faction which has
allegedly been responsible for about 25 arson attacks since 2001. Three
other men from Berlin have also been detained. They were seen trying to
place incendiary devices underneath trucks belonging to the German military.

How Far Can the State Go?

The move by the investigators to use all severity in dealing with such a
case is very likely a precedent -- and seems destined to trigger a
debate as to the appropriateness of the approach. The central questions
are clear: In the age of bloody suicide attacks, what constitutes
terrorism? And: How far can the state go?

More than 3,000 supporters, including academics from Germany and the
United States, have signed a letter of protest "Against the
Criminalization of Critical Science." Last week, renowned US
sociologists Saskia Sassen and Richard Sennett published an article
called "Guantánamo in Germany" in the British Guardian, in which they
write: "We are struck by the gray zones of fragile civil liberties and
confused state power that this case reveals."

The German Green Party has already said that Minister of Justice
Brigitte Zypries has some explaining to do and has promised to pursue
the issue in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. Green Party Floor
Leader Renate Künast has criticized the investigation as "lacking a
legal basis." Former Bundestag Vice President Burkhard Hirsch, of the
liberal Free Democrats, spoke of an inappropriate attempt to turn small
militant groups into terrorists. "Torching a car is no small offense,"
was the brusque retort of Dieter Wiefelspütz, the domestic policy
spokesman for the Social Democrats. One could very well speak of
terrorism in such a case, Wiefelspütz added.

The bitter debate comes four years after a 2003 legal reform pushed
through by the government of then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder which
introduced new guidelines for the prosecution of terrorist acts. Coming
not long after the al-Qaida attacks in the US, the reform took aim at
international terrorist organizations -- and made the prosecution of
those groups much easier. At the same time, Schröder's SPD and his
coalition partners the Greens wanted to limit the application of terror
laws -- originally passed to deal with Red Army Faction attacks in the
1970s -- domestically. There were also European Union guidelines to take
into consideration.

Arson as Terror

Ever since, arson has only been punishable as terrorism when carried out
with the intention of "significantly intimidating the population" or
"eliminating or seriously damaging the foundations of a state or an
international organization." Moreover, attacks need to be capable of
causing "considerable" damage to the state. Jerzy Montag, one of the
Green Party's legal experts, praised the new law at the time by pointing
out that it makes it impossible to prosecute "every little thing" as a
case of terrorism.

But how do you know when a state is severely damaged? Is every
politically motivated crime equal to terrorism, or should the case of
Andrej H. be approached solely as attempted arson?

A lack of case law means that an authoritative answer to these questions
does not yet exist. The only relevant court decision was handed down by
the Federal Court of Justice in its decision that the "pinprick tactic"
of right-wing arsonists can be defined as terrorism -- because
right-wing arsons are carried out with the intention of driving "all
foreigners" out of the region. Cologne-based professor Claus Kress
believes that terrorism charges could be leveled against Andrej H. and
the other suspects as long as "more than only marginal elements of the
German military were destroyed." But, he adds, setting fire to single
vehicles is not enough.

Criminal law professor Thomas Weigend likewise finds fault with a broad
application of terror laws. In a letter to former head federal
prosecutor Kay Nehm, he found fault with the "excessive reach" of the
2003 law and called for a restrictive interpretation. An attack, he
wrote, should be classified as terrorist only when "the state in its
entirety suffers damage," as in the case of "large-scale attacks on the
energy supply," for example. Exceptions should be made only for extreme
violence against humans.

Unusually Sloppy

Even justices at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, Germany's
highest appellate court, take this view. "Only limited effects with no
broader impact are not sufficient, according to the letter of the law,"
two magistrates at the Federal Court of Justice note. According to that
interpretation, the militante gruppe Andrej H. is accused of leading
wouldn't be a terrorist organization at all. Even if the left-wing
radicals have declared war on the state and have set fire to police
cars, job centers and a supermarket, they have taken care not to hurt
anybody. Contrary to the Red Army Faction, explosives or firearms are
not part of their weapons arsenal.

But what seems like an academic quibble is vital for the future of the
investigation into Andrej H's case. Only if the case is classified as
terrorism does it become part of Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms'
portfolio -- and only then can investigators make use of the full range
of surveillance measures. Most importantly, it is only then that alleged
behind-the-scenes conspirators can be prosecuted even when they have not
contributed to specific crimes in a tangible way -- as with Andrej H.
Investigators tapped his phone, traced his movements by following his
mobile phone signal, read his e-mails and maintained video surveillance
on both entrances to his house for almost a year.

If the arrest warrant issued by the Federal Court of Justice is to be
believed, these measures yielded little: Policemen saw the avowed G-8
critic meet with one of the alleged arsonists in a café in February and
April of this year. The meetings are said to have been arranged in
secret through the e-mail account "" The
investigators believe H. is the intellectual mastermind behind the group
because his dissertation on urban renewal features the word
"gentrification," which also appears in the communiqués of the
"militante gruppe."

Last week, Ulrich Hebenstreit, the judge overseeing Andrej H's
detention, carefully distanced himself from the initial accusations and
temporarily rescinded the unusually sloppy arrest warrant against Andrej
H. Hebenstreit argued that H. continues to be "strongly suspected of
having committed an offense," but that sufficient evidence "regarding
direct participation in one or more attacks by the 'militante gruppe' is
not yet extant."



More articles and protest letters from academics worldwide

31.08.2007 08:12

Committing critically engaged social science in Germany - an act of terrorism?

The past three weeks have been extremely worrying for Germany's intellectuals. Under § 129a of German penal law, a number of people, among them university-based social scientists, have been accused of membership in a terrorist association, several were arrested. The arguments brought forward against the accused are highly problematic and represent a threat to our democracy, to the German constitution as well as to critical research and teaching and are fundamentally opposed to the country's Constitution. By Wiebke Keim

On 31st July 2007, Florian L., Oliver R. and Axel H., accused of membership of the ''militant group'' (''militante gruppe''), were arrested in the region of Brandenburg. The ''militant group'', described as an extreme leftist grouping, has claimed responsibility for several acts of vandalism against military, police and private vehicles, since 2001. The ''Initiative for the Termination of Procedures under § 129a'' says the arrest was accompanied by unusual and unnecessary police brutality.

A few hours later, police searched the living and working spaces of Andrej Holm, urban sociologist at Humboldt University in Berlin, and of political scientists Matthias B., as well as of one other academic and one journalist in the German capital. A. Holm was arrested and held in pre-trial confinement until 22 August when he was released on bail, following protest actions by thousands nationally and internationally. Yet, according to his lawyer Christina Clemm, the arrest warrant has not been suspended. All four have been charged under § 129a of the German Penal Code, for ''membership in a terrorist association'', as supposed members of the ''militant group''. According to the search warrant, these four individuals have been under surveillance since September 2006. A. Holm's lawyer, after consulting the 29 folders of files of enquiry, has found out that the German Federal Bureau of Investigation became interested in A. Holm after a google-search for particular key words that the ''militant group'' used in its claims of responsibility, and has observed him since then.

The charge brought forward by the Federal Prosecutor against the above mentioned four individuals is presently justified on the following grounds: Matthias B. is alleged to have used, in his academic publications, ''phrases and key words'' which also appear in texts of the ''militant group''. Being a political scientist, the Federal Prosecutor deems him capable of ''authoring the sophisticated texts of the 'militant group'''. Additionally, ''as employee in a research institute, he has access to libraries which he can use inconspicuously in order to do the research necessary to the drafting of texts of the 'militant group''. Another person is accused to have met with suspects in a ''conspiratorial'' manner: ''meetings were regularly arranged without, however, mentioning place, time and content of the meetings''; furthermore, he is said to have been active in the ''extreme left-wing scene''. In the case of a third accused person, his address book seems to have contained the names and addresses of the other three accused. These three persons have been charged but still remain free.

A. Holm, in turn, was arrested and is ''strongly suspected'' to be a member of the ''militant group'', among others because of contacts with all three individuals. He is alleged of activism in the ''resistance mounted by the extreme left-wing scene against the World Economic Summit of 2007 in Heiligendamm''. The fact that he attended one meeting without bringing his mobile phone is considered to be ''conspiratorial behavior''. Andrej H., as well as Florian L., Oliver R. und Axel H., have thus been detained since 1st August 2007 in Berlin-Moabit under solitary confinement.

The charges against A. Holms are highly questionable. The Federal High Court, so far, could not substantiate its reasoning with any concrete evidence. The hypotheses underlying the charges are rather absurd: Because of their research, intellectual capacities and access to libraries, university-based social scientists are supposed to be the heads of a ''terrorist organization''. This appears to be evident, to the Federal Prosecutor, through the fact that the organization used some of the key concepts that are also used by the scholars, as for instance the concept of ''gentrification'' - when Amazon lists 78 books on the subject of gentrification and Sociological Abstracts has 452 entries on this topic.

Andrej H. as well as Matthias B. have been working, presenting and publishing on this topic for several years, in academic as well as in non-academic circles. The two have written their PhD theses on the process of the Berlin neighbourhood Prenzlauer Berg after 1990. A. Holm's academic research focus has since been on the impact of privatisation of public housing, such as social housing. Recently, he has been researching the real estate market in the German capital, putting special emphasis on the situation of the long-term unemployed. Since 2005, he participated in the research project ?The European URBAN Experience - the Academic Perspective''.

But the two of them were active beyond academia. They published in popular leftist newspapers such as ''Junge Welt''. A. Holm has been engaged with the ''German Association of Tenants'' (Deutscher Mieterbund), where he presented his work on housing and urban space. He is also the co-editor of ''MieterEcho'', the journal of the Berlin Tenants' Association. At the international level, Andrej is a member of INURA, the International Network for Urban Research and Action. Thus, he is one of the few critically engaged scholars in the country who make an effort to make their findings available to the concerned - among others by preparing overviews on the structure of housing available for rent at the European level on request of the Berlin Tenants' Association or by speaking to the unemployed section of German trade union ver.di.

To base an accusation of membership in a ''terrorist organization'' on the fact that texts by that organization contain concepts utilised in his so widely spread and publicly received research work appears to be totally absurd. Furthermore, the charges establish a sort of ''guilt by association'': One of the accused was blamed for having Andrej's contact details in his address book, as well as those by two others who were accused but not jailed.

Paragraph 192a, created in 1976 in the course of prosecution of the ''Red Army Front'' and judged by critiques to be undermining the German constitutional state, has for long been used to observe and criminalize politically dissident groupings in the left scene. This case, however, goes still far beyond that. Now, the fact that critical research supposedly feeds into ''terrorist activities'' by others is used for the criminalization of academics, and especially of critical, public intellectuals, who are linked to activism in the real world, as ''terrorists''. This is a disastrous development in a country where universities are already driven very far back into the ivory towers and few academics step out of their classrooms and offices in order to engage with the public. The construction of an ''intellectual perpetrator'' is highly questionable and fundamentally in contradiction with article 5 of the German Constitution, that guarantees freedom of opinion, science, research and teaching.

Protests and demonstrations in support for the accused stated that any sociology seminar in Germany would from now on have to be held in jail. If the above mentioned accusations prove to be sufficient for the condemnation of the accused, this also means that critical social science is under general suspicion. In fact, any user of a library could be seen as a suspect according to the reasoning of the Prosecutor. This would represent a threat to academic freedom and to the scientific integrity of the scholarly community.

The arrests have engendered broad protests from academics, activists, civil society, as well as from an international audience. The American Sociological Association that held its annual congress in August 2007, has written an open letter to Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms. Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen have published an article entitled ''Guantánamo in Germany. In the name of the war on terror, our colleagues are being persecuted - for the crime of sociology'' on 21 August in The Guardian. Supporters can sign the ''Open letter to Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms against criminalization of science'' under Institute of Social Science at Humboldt University/Berlin. (go to: ''Unterstützen!''), launched by the

Dr. Wiebke Keim is a researcher and post-doc candidate at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

University of KwaZulu-Natal, 30.08.2007


At Least We Don’t Jail Our Prophets

Berkeley residents who get tired of being called NIMBYs and worse by the powers-that-be think they have problems. The artists and other denizens of West Berkeley who object to the new taxation scheme which the big property owners are trying to foist on the neighborhood they call home are currently getting the full treatment from those who think they know what’s best for the area: how to clean it up and make it all nicey-nice for the newly lucrative biotech labs and the high-end condos speculators are hoping to build near them. Their turf is also the target of city re-zoning efforts both spot (Berkeley Bowl) and far-reaching (auto dealership specials). They complain, with some justification, that their now-affordable housing and workspaces are being threatened by gentrification, that there’s obvious inequality in the way different contenders for West Berkeley space are being treated. By Becky O’Malley

Well, perhaps they’d better watch their language. In Berlin, a sociology professor who specializes in documenting the effects of urban renewal on minority populations was arrested, along with three colleagues, and put in solitary confinement for three weeks under Germany’s draconian post-911 “anti-terrorist” laws. The evidence? Prosecutorial word-spotters detected those suspect words “gentrification” and “inequality” in his published academic articles. Not only that, he met with some of the more radical anti-urban-renewal dissidents without taking his cell-phone along, presumably so that he couldn’t be tracked by police spying on the “militant group” (known just as “mg”) which has been blamed for a number of arson attacks on construction projects.

The Deutsche-Welle website reported that, “the prosecutor’s office said Andrej H. [Holm] had met with a suspected member of mg twice and that the researcher used ‘keywords and phrases’ in his academic texts that had appeared in documents written by mg, such as the term ‘gentrification,’ according to news reports. It also said that ‘as an employee of a research institute, [he] had access to libraries where he could inconspicuously do the research required for the founding of a militant group.’ ” As of Thursday, Professor Holm was out of jail, but the charges against him had not been dropped.

Thank goodness, things are nothing like that bad around here. There are, however, many echoes of the German attitude that those in power know what’s good for you, and if you protest you’re suspect, to be seen in many local controversies in the Bay Area and elsewhere. For example, there’s a big development project proposed for the Bayview-Hunter’s Point area right now which proponents are sure will be great, but some local folks aren’t sure and are protesting. Developers and established community leaders are united in applying derogatory labels to their protests.

Academics around the world are busy with petitions on Professor Holm’s behalf. The progressive planning associations (yes, there are some) are doing their best to get the German government to listen to reason. But even supporters are carefully qualifying their opinions to make sure they’re not linked to the radical anti-globalization points of view which the “mg” crowd is thought to espouse.

Here in Berkeley plenty of voices have been raised to suggest that if it’s good for British Petroleum (now just coyly ‘BP’) or for auto dealers or for the Bayer corporation or for any of the other big landholders in West Berkeley it must be good for everyone. They’ve got a right to these opinions, of course, and we support that right by giving them space in the paper to express them. But they cross a line when they suggest that there’s something illegitimate about citizens who don’t like the plans that are being made. And city officials, both elected and hired, who disparage citizen complainers and do their best to evade their scrutiny are even worse, since theoretically their job is to serve the people, all the people, not just the economically powerful people.

And the various individuals and groups who are scrapping with AC Transit and UC Berkeley deserve to get some respect too. The people who are mad at the transit agency’s plans, with just a couple of exceptions, sincerely want to be able to get somewhere efficiently on the bus. Their major gripe is that they think the limited amount of public money could be spent more intelligently to accomplish that goal.

The UC neighbors who think that building a glorified gym and offices right next to the Hayward fault, with road access already over-burdened, are not crypto Stanford fans or opponents of physical fitness. The Planet has published a number of letters from the letter-writing campaign being organized by parents of student athletes, who of course are entitled to promote what they think their kids need or at least what they want. But we’ve also gotten links to blogs being written by other supporters, and with friends like those the UC Student Athlete High Performance Center doesn’t need enemies. A sample, from a blog called calgoldenbears: “IT IS TIME WE THOUGHT OF EVERYONE AND NOT JUST THE TREES, THE RICH LAND OWNERS, AND THE OUT OF CONTROL FARCE THAT IS BERKELEY CITY GOVERNMENT.” (all caps sic).

For those who once were proud to attend a school that seldom won a football game, people like this guy look like prime examples of how our alma mater has gone downhill. Back in the day, the football players used to train at Edwards Field, and then run all the way to the stadium, accompanied by student cheers as they passed. Is it really an improvement to put the new gym (which will serve a maximum of 500 students daily out of perhaps 40,000) in an area poorly served by mass transit, so that it must have a huge parking lot? Of course, when have footballers ever taken the bus?

But no matter how put-upon our local civic watchdogs must feel sometimes, and even if being called “civic watchdogs” sometimes feels to some of them like an insult, they should keep an eye on the chilling tale of what’s been happening to Professor Andrej Holm in Berlin. If they do, they will surely realize that there are worse fates than simply being unappreciated. It’s true that a prophet is often without honor in his or her own country, but at least here, now, we don’t throw our prophets in jail for using the wrong vocabulary.

Berkeley Daily Planet, 26.08.2007


American Sociological Association: Letter to the Federal Prosecutor

We just received a letter of support from the governing council of the American Sociological Association, representing over 14.000 sociologists in the USA and internationally. Pay special attention to the resolution near the end.

Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof
c/o Ermittlungsrichter Hebenstreit
Herrenstrasse 45
D-76133 Karlsruhe

Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof
Brauerstrasse 30
D-76137 Karlsruhe
Fax 011 49 7 21 819 14 92


We write on behalf of the governing Council of the American Sociological Association (ASA), the national organization for sociologists in the United States with over 14,000 members who are faculty members of colleges and universities, researchers, practitioners and students in the United States and internationally.

As a scientific society dedicated to advancing sociology as a scientific discipline and profession serving the public good, the ASA and its elected leadership are vitally concerned with the academic freedom and scientific integrity of sociologists and other social scientists whenever and wherever they are engaged in professional and scientific work. The ASA Council has spoken frequently in support of academic freedom and human rights, and it regularly addresses concerns raised by members of the Association about scholars they believe are imperiled by governments or their agents in possible violation of academic freedom.

At its August 15, 2007, meeting in New York City, at the American Sociological Association’s 102nd Annual Meeting which was attended by over 6,000 North American and international scholars, the Council’s attention was drawn to the situation of Dr. Andrej H. and other German scholars and researchers recently accused or under threat of accusation by German authorities.

We would like to bring to your attention the following ASA Council statement. This statement reflects this Association’s position regarding fundamental principles that underlie the protection of academic freedom and the integrity of scientific research that should be respected by all governments that value the free pursuit of scholarship and scientific knowledge that is essential to the advancement of open and democratic societies.

* * *

Resolution of the 2007-2008 Council of the American Sociological Association Meeting in New York City on August 15, 2007

The Council of the American Sociological Association categorically rejects the use by governments or their agents of scholarly concepts, writings, or field research contacts as the basis upon which to monitor, detain, or incarcerate social science scholars and researchers. It condemns the use of social science scholarship, concepts, and research contacts to generate criminal suspicion or accusation as a gross violation of the principle of academic freedom and the integrity of scientific practice.

* * *


Arne Kalleberg, PhD
President, American Sociological Association
Kenan Distinguished Professor and Director of International Programs
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Sally T. Hillsman, PhD
Executive Officer, American Sociological Association

1307 New York Avenue NW, Suite 700 (202) 383-9005
Washington, DC 20005-4701 (202) 638-0882 fax
(202) 638-0981 tdd

American Sociological Association (ASA), 22.08.2007


§ 129 is threatening the freedom of research and teaching

Letter to Attorney of the German Federal Supreme Court

Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof
Brauerstraße 30
D-76137 Karlsruhe

To the Attorney of the German Federal Supreme Court,

We are writing to express our grave concern with the abuse of democracy and freedom recently committed by the German government against Andrej Holm and other individuals, for alleged membership in, or support of, a so-called "militante gruppe."

Planning Action is a group of urban planners, architects and activists who work with diverse communities in Toronto, Canada, struggling against economic, cultural, and ecological injustice. We address issues relating to public space, gentrification, social polarization and exclusion. Our work spans academic, professional, community, and activist initiatives, and our membership is also drawn from these diverse fields. We believe that engaged citizenship in the city demands both active intellectual and social involvement. In Canada academics are an important part of networks and actions for social change.

We write with deep dismay about the recent actions of the German government. The surveillance and incarceration of activists and researchers concerned with issues of social justice in the city is deeply troubling. Healthy democratic governance requires both academic critique and practical contestation. These combined activities allow us to envision and work towards positive change.

What is currently taking place in Germany undermines democratic citizenship and intellectual freedom, and criminalizes dissent. It is not only a gross injustice against the individuals being persecuted, but the precedent this could set compromises the rights and freedoms of progressive social movements globally.

The Federal Prosecutor, through applying Article § 129, is threatening the freedom of research and teaching as well as democratic practice. We demand the immediate suspension of the § 129a-proceedings again all parties concerned and the release of the imprisoned at once.

Yours sincerely,

Deborah Cowen, University of Toronto
Heather McLean, York University
Ute Lehrer, York University
Sue Bunce
Amy Siciliano, University of Toronto
Vanessa Parlette, University of Toronto
Douglas Young, York University
Paul Jackson, University of Toronto

On behalf of Planning Action, Toronto
info [at]

Planning Action, 20.08.2007


Who will be next?

We the International Critical Geography Group, which include academic affiliates in more than forty countries on six continents, vehemently protest the arrest and incarceration of our academic colleague Andrej Holm, an urban sociologist at the Institute for Social Research at the Humboldt University in Berlin. We also decry the incrimination in the same case of other critical social scientists, including Dr. Matthias B. who had their apartments raided, computers and address books confiscated.

All of this is happening under the powers of a 1970s era anti-terrorist law, section 129a, which allows the state specifically to make alleged links between critical intellectuals and “terrorists”.

Andrej Holm is a scholar researching the impacts of gentrification in Berlin and is active in tenant’s rights movements. It is incomprehensible that the German government could construe this individual as a terrorist, or for that matter anyone associated with progressive research and action: their arrest is a blow to academic and intellectual freedom around the globe.

The evidence that has been marshaled to justify Holm’s arrest is without any conceivable merit. It would appear that the criminal activities that Dr. Holm is accused of are 1) access to library resources, 2) critical research on the processes of urban development and gentrification 3) advocating on behalf of low income tenants and 4) protest of the World Economic Summit in Heiligen.

That these could be considered reasonable grounds for arrest, worse still that the term “ gentrification” and analysis of its impacts on the urban poor constitutes evidence that he is the intellectual leader of a terrorist association, (based on shared terminology with the publications of a so-called terrorist group), is frankly ludicrous.

A cursory search on scholarly work on the gentrification of Berlin turns up 156 papers: are all these authors possible “intellectual masterminds” of terrorist cells? Who will be next? The German government’s actions are shameful: a despicable turn for a government with any pretense to democracy.

We protest the arrest of Dr. Holm and his colleagues. We are joining an international campaign to demand the immediate release of these prisoners and the repeal of Paragraph § 129a.

International Critical Geography Group, 16.08.2007


Chilling Arrests of Researchers

Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof
c/o Ermittlungsrichter Hebenstreit
Herrenstraße 45
D-76133 Karlsruhe

It has recently come to my attention through numerous American and European academic organizations that a number of academics in the normal pursuit of their scholarship and research have been arrested and continue to be held as charged with “membership in a terrorist association according to § 129a StGB” (German Penal Code, section 7 on ‘Crimes against Public Order’).

What is especially troubling to me as an Activist or Public Scholar is that Dr. Andrej Holm, Dr. Matthias B., Florian L., Oliver R. und Axel H. were investigated and arrested for the kind of activities that I and most other socially conscious social scientists routinely engage in. Over the course of my career I have engaged in research and writing about Civil Rights for Nonwhite minorities, Affordable Housing, and most recently the rights of the newest immigrants in the United States and abroad. If such work can so easily be presented as "potentially" (therefore actually) criminal then it must follow that critical academic activities of all sorts, including those that are only distantly related to political and social engagement can be horribly transformed, by the State, into crimes of subversion and terrorism. I understand that we live in dangerous and difficult times but such menacing actions by those who are sworn to protect the rights of its citizens must be ever more cautious and reluctant to use its power to take those rights away and cast a chilling shadow across the scholarly community that historically has been a bastion against tyranny.

Sincerely yours,
Jerome Krase, Ph.D.
Emeritus and Murray Koppelman Professor
Brooklyn College
The City University of New York

Jerome Krase, 16.08.2007


Protest against the abuse of academic freedom

To the Attorney of the German Federal Supreme Court,

This is a letter of protest and petition against the abuse of academic freedom recently committed in Germany against a number of individuals including Andrej Holm for alleged membership of a terrorist organisation or supporting such an organisation.

We are the Planners Network UK, a group of teachers, academics, researchers and practitioners who work in the field of urban geography and planning in the UK. We write because what is currently taking place in Germany undermines academic integrity and freedom, and serves a gross injustice against the individuals being persecuted and by extension all of us who pursue the truth in our research endeavours. The actions of the German police and by extension the German state are the antithesis of what our organisation considers to be foundational to proper academic research and endeavour: these are an open but critical and inquiring mind, the ability to publish freely the results of research that was undertaken with rigour and integrity, and the right to live in freedom where those responsibilities have been upheld.

Individuals involved in this case include researchers and academics of the highest integrity, whose work has made a very great contribution to urban geography and planning in recent years in raising key issues and concerns for urban and public policy. We hold all of the accused in the highest regards and are appalled at the attempts made by the German state to brand those accused as ‘terrorists’ or as supporting terrorist crimes on the flimsy evidence that has thus far been presented.

The arguments used in the arrest of these individuals render every academic research activity that is politically engaged as potentially criminal. Since we believe that all research activity should be politically engaged toward justice and human rights, but always rigorous and undertaken with the highest of ethical integrity, this presents a very dangerous course of action. In the UK and elsewhere, academics routinely intervene in social struggles for just outcomes, this is an essential part of our work. The actions of the German state in this case undermine this by branding such political engagement as ‘terrorism’.

We demand that the Federal Prosecutor (Bundesanwaltschaft) immediately suspend the § 129a-proceedings against all parties concerned and release Andrej Holm and the other imprisoned from jail at once. We strongly reject the outrageous accusation that the academic research activities and the political engagement of Andrej Holm are to be viewed as complicity in an alleged “terrorist association”. No arrest warrant can be deduced from the academic research and political work of Andrej Holm. The Federal Prosecutor, through applying Article § 129, is threatening the freedom of research and teaching as well as social-political engagement.

Yours sincerely

Planners Network UK (PNUK)
Sent by Dr Libby Porter: convenor of PNUK and Lecturer, University of Sheffield

Planners Network UK
c/o Department of Town and Regional Planning
University of Sheffield
Western Bank
S10 2TN
15 August 2007

Planners Network UK (PNUK), 15.08.2007


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