[JURIST] A German court in Dusseldorf on Thursday convicted four Islamists of conspiracy to murder and belonging to a foreign terrorist group for plotting to destroy US facilities within Germany. The four men, members of the radical Islamic Jihad Union [NCTC backgrounder], were apprehended [NYT report] in September 2007 while developing a plan to use three car bombs and 250kg of explosives on US targets. The attacks were planned to coincide with a vote in parliament on whether Germany should extend its military presence in Afghanistan. Fritz Gelowicz and Daniel Schneider, both German-born converts to Islam, were sentenced [AP report] to 12 years in prison. The court also sentenced Adem Yilmaz, a Turkish citizen, to 11 years and Atilla Selek, a German citizen of Turkish origin, to five years. Although there are no formal pleas in German trials, all four mean submitted confessions in exchange for reduced sentencing.
The 2007 arrest led to several additions [JURIST report] to Germany's anti-terror laws, which were strengthened by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government following 9/11 [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this week, Germany's high court overturned an anti-terror law [JURIST report] that allowed German authorities access to phone and e-mail data. The data would be stored for six months to be used by police agencies in criminal investigations. The court held that the law was unconstitutional and violated the privacy rights of German citizens. Merkel's government has recently received criticism for the effect anti-terror laws are having on the citizen's privacy rights, claiming a better balance needs to be established between privacy and security.