German Judge Presses Charges After Drone Killing

by Florian Flade

A German judge is pressing charges against the head of Germany´s FBI for allegedly assisting murder in the case of Bünyamin E., a suspected Jihadi militant and German citizen killed by a US drone in October 2010 – a case that could cause further political consequences in Berlin and Washington.

Bünyamin E.  – Death by Drone on October 4th 2010

Jörg Ziercke´s job is anything but an easy one. He is the head of the „Bundeskriminalamt“ (BKA), the German equivalent to the American FBI. The BKA with its approximately 5,200 personel, is responsible for the coordination of law enforcement in cooperation with criminal investigation bureaux of the individual states of Germany called „Landeskriminalamt“ (LKA). Part of Mr.Ziercke´s job is counter-terrorism. While the German „Verfassungsschutz“ (BfV) gathers information about groups, parties and individuals involved in extremism and terrorism and the „Bundesnachrichtendienst“ (BND) is only operating outside of the country, the BKA is actively fighting terrorism within Germany.

Since 2004 Ziercke is the chief commissioner of the BKA and has earned praise as well as harsh critizism even from within his own party. Especially his dedication to further expand online searches of private computers to fight terrorism as well as child pornography and illegal file-sharing has led to resistance on a political level.
When it comes to Jihadi terrorism, Jörg Ziercke has always kept quite calm and acted carefully when giving interviews to avoid causing hysteria and panic. Yet, in the background, the head of BKA might have played a more active role in going after Islamic fanatics.

How far the BKA´s involvement in fighting terrorism went is only one question a German judge wants to be answered very soon – possibly in front of a court. Thomas Schulte-Kellinghaus, judge at the highest state court in Karlsruhe, pressed charges against BKA head Ziercke in December. Schulte-Kellinghaus wants to know wether or not the German police was involved in the killing of a German citizen who died in October 2010 in Pakistan. Suspicion is strong BKA and possibly other German government agencies provided the US with information about the alleged German Jihadi´s whereabouts.

The case of Bünyamin E., a 20 year-old German of Turkish origin, prompted Mr.Schulte-Kellinghaus to take the very unusual step to file a complaint against the BKA chief commissioner. Bünyamin E. was killed on October 4th 2010 when a missiles fired from a US drone hit a building near Mir Ali, North-Waziristan. E., Hamburg resident Shahab D. and several Central Asian Jihadi militants died in that attack. Eventhough early reports out of Pakistan indicated German nationals were in fact killed by the US drone strike, German officials would neither confirm nor deny the death of a German citizen. For weeks the German government kept quiet about the case of Bünyamin E.. Even when pictures of the dead body and the burial of the German national were released by a Jihadi group on the internet a few weeks after the deadly missile strike, Germany´s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not comment on the event.

Two German political parties, „Die Linke“ and „Die Grünen“, send a formal request to the German government, demanding more information about the attack and details of a possible involvement of German officials in locating the German residents Shabab D. and Bünyamin E.. Both answers sent from government officials to the parties which I obtained, show unwillingness of German officials to confirm the death of a German citizen caused by a US drone. The documents read there has been a cooperation started with US authorities to determent if indeed a German citizen died on October 4th 2010 in North-Waziristan. Investigation is still going on and – one month after the attack – has not resulted in any new information.

Meanwhile there is no doubt that Bünyamin E. and Shahab D. were killed in the described drone strike near Mir Ali. E.´s brother who is still residing in Pakistan called the parents in Germany and told them of the death of the younger sibling. Shahab D.´s parents received a similar phone call.
Bünyamin E. who was born and raised in Western Germany, worked during summer vacation on a farm near his home town, helped to slaughter sheep and lambs. The farmer couple knew the friendly boy since he was a teenager. As soon as they got the news of Bünyamin´s death from the family, the former employer published a obituary in the local newspaper reading „Bünyamin was bombed out of his life by a US drone“. A German TV team presented the farmer couple a picture Bünyamin E.´s dead body. Husband and wife confirmed the picture shows their former labourer.

All this evidence of E.´s killing did not lead to any further comment by German politicians on the case. Left-wing activists, former judges and human rights experts demand answers and protest the alleged illegal killing of a German citizen. No evidence has been brought forward to proof Bünyamin E. was in fact involved in terrorist activities or actively fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan when he was killed – that´s the claim of those requesting government´s action to investigate the case of Bünyamin E.

Judge Schulte-Kellinghaus filed the complaint against BKA president Ziercke in early December to find out wether or not he is partially to blame for the death of a German citizen. Upon my request neither the BKA nor Jörg Ziercke himself has not presented any statement on the accusation yet.

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