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Thursday 30 April 2009

Germany: Justice Minister says prosecutor handled Nadja Benaissa arrest properly

Hessian Minister of Justice, Joerg-Uwe Hahn has dismissed all criticism of the actions of Ger Neuber, the Darmstadt prosecutor who arranged for the public arrest and immediate incarceration of Nadja Benaissa, and then issued a press release.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (English translation here), he announced on Wednesday that Neuber's actions were "legally and technically acceptable"; that he had been aware of Benaissa's impending arrest two days prior; and that the public interest outweighed Ms Benaissa's right to privacy.

Last Saturday, The Guardian ran an (rather oddly worded, perhaps badly translated?) opinion piece by German journalist
Sabine Rennefanz, outlining her criticisms of Neuber's actions, and comparing the case to that of German MP, Joerg Tauss, whose child pornography charges were dismissed.

What is worrying is how the state prosecution made the private case into a public drama. The singer was arrested publicly before a gig in a Frankfurt nightclub and was taken into custody "because of the danger of repetition", as the prosecutor's office put it. The suspect was treated as if it was already proven that she had infected the man that sued her, which is not the case. It is not the first time that a prominent person has been the subject of an aggressive information policy from a state prosecution service, but questions remain: Benaissa was arrested and kept in custody "because of the danger of repetition". But, if it was so urgent, why did they not arrest her earlier? The police had been on the case since June 2008.

When a member of parliament, Joerg Tauss, tried to defend himself against charges of dealing with child pornography, his claims were publicly dismissed by the Karlsruhe prosecutor, RĂ¼diger Rehring. Legal experts note a change in the information policy: previously prosecutors had silently worked in the background, shunning the public eye, while the lawyers were the celebrities trying to influence public opinion. Now they appear to be trying to limit control and influence reporting, as in this young woman's case.



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