BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s justice minister added her voice on Wednesday to outrage sweeping the country over ‘scent profiling’ methods police are using for a looming G8 summit that recall tricks by East Germany’s nefarious Stasi.
Minister Brigitte Zyprie, other members of the ruling Social Democrats, attorney groups and Stasi victims said they were stunned police collected scent traces of select activists ahead of expected protests against the June world leaders’ summit.
The East German security police — the omnipresent Stasi — routinely collected scents from dissidents, often from bits of clothing sealed in airtight containers for storage, in order to track defectors or suspects later with the help of sniffer dogs.
“This leaves a very bad taste in my mouth,” Social Democrat minister Zypries told HR3 radio. She said she fully understood the worries of some people of increasing “state snooping” because of various anti-terror measures proposed by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
Schaeuble, a leader in Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, defended the scent tracking methods and police collecting them in recent early morning raids off palm perspiration samples from suspects.
He said the police were only trying to guarantee the security of the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, to be attended by U.S. President George Bush and other heads of leading industrialized countries.
More than 100,000 protesters are expected for the June 6-8 gathering. There have been numerous acts of anti-G8 violence here in recent months and past G8 meetings in other countries have drawn violent protests.
“In certain cases, it’s a useful method to identify criminal suspects,” Schaeuble told Bavarian radio as the issue of scent profiling flared up as one of the hottest issues on Wednesday.
“The task at hand is to provide security for the G8 summit and the police is doing just that with appropriate measures.”
Most Germans assumed the chilling practice, which for the most part was done secretly in East Germany, was scrapped after the collapse of the Communist regime and Germany reunited.
Germany has tightened security in the run-up to the group of eight meeting and police have staged pre-emptive raids in an effort to weed out potential trouble-makers. But violence has risen, with near daily firebombing attacks against luxury cars.
Zypries said the order by state prosecutors to collect the samples did not violate any laws.
“These methods remind me of the Stasi,” said Wolfgang Thierse, deputy parliamentary president and an SPD leader. “It’s bad enough that we have to put up with a long metal security fence around Heiligdamm that reminds me of the Berlin Wall.
“But now we’ve got to guard against a hysteria that could lead us to use police methods like they used in East Germany.”
Hans-Christian Stroebele, a Greens leader, added: “It’s unsavory that our security agencies are now using methods that the Stasi once practiced.”