Bremen Guantanamo Inmate's Fate Unclear

Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish national and the only prisoner from Germany at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, has been held there since early 2002. He now may have lost his right of residence in Germany. By Anja von Cysewski

photo: DW-World
Kurnaz was born in Germany, his family lives in Bremen

​​At first sight, the argument seems to be a purely legal one. When 22-year-old Turkish national Murat Kurnaz left Germany for Pakistan in October 2001, he held an unlimited residence permit. This kind of document expires six months after its holder leaves the country, unless he applies for a new one.

Since Murat Kurnaz who's been held in US custody for more than two and half years now, didn't apply for extension on time, he will be not be allowed to return home.

No entry

Bremen's conservative senator for interior affairs, Thomas Röwekamp, said the case is clear.

"If he were to arrive now at a German airport with his passport and ask for permission to enter, he wouldn't be allowed to enter the country," he said.

For Röwekamp this is not a political decision, but simply the rule of the law which leaves no room for interpretation. The fact that Murat Kurnaz was born in the German city of Bremen and that his family lives there, doesn't count, he added.

"That's a fate he shares with many other foreigners who were born here in Germany, who once held a residence permit but are still not allowed to reenter the country," Röwekamp said.

"Guantanamo in Germany"

Kurnaz's lawyer, Bernhard Docke was outraged by these statements. He argued that Germany's immigration law does allow for delayed extension of residence permits in special cases.

At the time Bremen's senator for interior affairs expected Kurnaz to renew his documents, the man was being kept in isolation at the US base in Guantanamo without access to legal assistance or family, Docke said.

"Murat Kurnaz had no chance to do that at that time," Docke added. "It's a shame and it incorporates Guantanamo in German law."

Docke is now hoping that the trial against his client in the US will begin soon. He is convinced that Kurnaz has not been involved in any terrorist activity and will therefore be released.

"Since he still has Turkish citizenship, it is predictable that he will be sent from Guantanamo to Turkey," Docke said. "And then he will ask to come back to Germany. In my legal opinion he can ask for this later. And probably it will mean a fight with our senator in Bremen on that."

New immigration law to tighten rules

But Thomas Röwekamp has another argument against Kurnaz's return. He points out that under Germany's new immigration law which is due to be enacted in January next year, merely the suspicion of terrorist activity will be sufficient to prevent foreigners from entering the country.

Under these circumstances, Murat Kurnaz's fate now seems heavily dependent on how quickly American courts deal with his case.

Anja von Cysewski


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