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Cablegate: Duesseldorf Court Carves Out Niche in Terrorism Case

VZCZCXRO8221
RR RUEHAG RUEHLZ
DE RUEHDF #0030/01 2781605
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051605Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0093
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0107

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSSELDORF 000030

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER KJUS KLIG KISL KCRM KOMC IR GM
SUBJECT: DUESSELDORF COURT CARVES OUT NICHE IN TERRORISM CASE

REF: REFS: A) 05 STATE 222496 B) 06 STATE 000015 C) BERLIN 1681 D) BERLIN 1767

DUSSELDORF 00000030 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: The Duesseldorf Higher Regional Court has
emerged as one of Germany's major legal institutions for trying
high profile terrorism and other sensitive cases (e.g. mafia,
espionage). Following the "Caliph of Cologne" and al-Tawhid
trials in recent years and an Al-Qaeda insurance fraud case
nearing completion, the court will begin hearing the Cologne
"train bomber" (from July 31, 2006) case on December 18. Court
officials speculate that they will also try those arrested in
the September 4 plot by homegrown terrorists against U.S.
military installations and other targets in Germany (Refs C and
D). NRW authorities have gone to great lengths to establish
Duesseldorf as a venue to try very sensitive cases, opening a
state-of-the-art high security court building specially designed
for terrorist trials in 2004 and appointing Ottmar Breidling,
one of Germany's most experienced judges on terrorism, to
preside over key trials. This court is likely to play a
prominent role in sensitive cases in the future. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Duesseldorf Higher Regional Court has become
particularly interesting among German courts for its role in
trying highly sensitive cases. In the late 1990s, state leaders
with vision invested considerable resources into ensuring that
authorities are in a position to handle the most prominent
cases. Court officials consider their facility the most modern
and sophisticated in Germany, or at least among the top. We
recently took a tour of the facility with Court President
Anna-Jose Paulsen and spoke with several of her leading
colleagues.

From Rags to Riches: Courthouse a State-of-the-Art Facility

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3. (SBU) Paulsen explained that prior to 2004, terrorist trials
in Duesseldorf were held in a bunker-like courtroom located in
former Police barracks. Today, they are tried in a special high
security courthouse, a gleaming state-of-the-art facility
complete with specialized, advanced computer and communications
equipment, drop-down projectors, multiple booths for
simultaneous language translation, extensive digitized files to
enable judges to crosscheck information presented at trials
quickly, and a helipad. The total cost for this facility was
35 million, half of which was funded by the state of NRW and
the other half by the Federal government -- a clear sign that
this unique facility would not be used only for cases
originating in NRW, but also from other parts of the country,
she stated.

Indictment to Verdict: The Path of an Accused Terrorist in
Germany

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-------

4. (SBU) Unlike routine criminal cases in Germany that are
investigated, tried and concluded by prosecutors from the state
where the crime was committed, the Chief Federal Prosecutor in
Karlsruhe plays a special role in terrorism cases. After the
conclusion of a terrorism investigation, the Federal Prosecutor
decides before which Higher Regional Court a terrorism suspect
is to be indicted and tried. For the case to be handled in a
given Regional Court, the defendant must have some tie to the
state where the court is located. As defendants often are
residents of one state, plan the crime with others in a second,
commit it in a third, and are apprehended in a fourth state, the
Federal Prosecutor can bring charges before a Higher Regional
Court in any of the states, provided it has court with a
specialized panel of judges able to deal with so-called "crimes
against the security of the state" (which includes terrorist
crimes). More often than not, Paulsen said, the Federal
Prosecutor bases the decision of where to indict on practical
considerations, such as caseload and the experience of the court
as well as facilities for conducting high security trials. The
link between the defendant and the state where the trial takes
place can be very broad. For instance, in the ongoing Al-Qaeda
trial before the Duesseldorf Higher Regional Court, none of the
defendants were residents of NRW at the time of the crime
(large-scale insurance fraud to generate money for Al-Qaeda

DUSSELDORF 00000030 002.2 OF 002


activities), nor were they arrested in the state. It sufficed
that one of the defendants had studied in NRW for a semester
(when the crime may have already been in the planning stages) to
bring this case to Duesseldorf.

Duesseldorf Judge: Major Authority in Terrorism Cases

--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) Of the 130 judges in the NRW Higher Regional Court,
five specialize in terrorism cases, led by Ottmar Breidling, who
for 15 years has presided over the division dealing with crimes
against the security of the state. He began his career with two
trials against members of the Kurdish terrorist organization
PKK, which made national and international headlines in the
1990s because they involved close collaborators of PKK leader
Vcalan. Breidling also tried the Metin Kaplan case (aka "Caliph
of Cologne"), who was convicted in November 2000, and two trials
against members of the Al-Tawhid terrorist group (led by Abu
Musab Al-Zarqawi), which took place in 2002/03 and 2004/05,
respectively. In the current Al-Qaeda trial that opened in May
2006, Breidling is expected to pronounce the verdict shortly (in
October), before he opens the trial against the "suitcase
bomber" on December 18.

6. (SBU) In a recent meeting, Breidling told us he often faces
criticism because his cases take a long time to conclude, but
observed with pride that, "to date, not a single one of my
court's terrorist-related decisions has been overturned by the
Federal Court of Justice -- unlike some that are tried by my
colleagues in other courts." His scrupulous attention to legal
procedure and detail and successful track record has made a name
for him in legal and anti-terrorism circles. Senior officials
in several NRW law enforcement agencies have told the CG they
consider him one of Germany's top judges for terrorism-related
cases.

Comment

-------

7. (SBU) With its high tech, secure facilities and Breidling's
expertise and reputation, the Duesseldorf Higher Regional Court
has carved out an important niche in the terrorism field and is
likely to continue to play an important role in high-profile
cases in Germany in the future. Based on its track record, a
senior Court official may be correct in his prediction that the
three suspects apprehended on September 4 for planning an attack
on US military facilities and other sites in Germany will be
tried in Duesseldorf and that Breidling will again oversee this
trial.

8. (SBU) With a verdict in the ongoing Al-Qaeda trial expected
shortly, attention will soon turn to the "suitcase bomber"
trial. Some of our court sources are optimistic that a verdict
in that case can be reached early in 2008, but Breidling's
reputation and modus operandi suggest that he will not proceed
until he has an airtight case. End Comment.

9. (SBU) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
BOYSE

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