Munich – After the knife attack in Mannheim, in which six people were injured and a police officer was killed, German politicians are discussing tightening asylum laws so that foreigners who have committed crimes can be deported to Afghanistan. The Abendzeitung spoke to a criminal defense lawyer and former lecturer at the LMU about this.

Abendzeitung: Mr Bethäuser, a few days ago a 25-year-old Afghan man injured six people with a knife in Mannheim; a policeman died. Now Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in favor of deporting serious criminals to Afghanistan. How do you assess the legal feasibility of this?

FRANZ BETHÄUSER: I am surprised how a lawyer can argue so generally. The dilemma is that you can’t simply deport people to Afghanistan. There is no official contact with the Taliban and this would have to be agreed with them. In addition, deportations cannot take place immediately. In order to do this, you would basically have to give up the German state’s right to prosecution. But if the perpetrator from Mannheim is of sound mind, then he would have to be tried in criminal court and then sentenced.

Several courts have defined safe regions in Afghanistan. Would this make it possible in principle to deport the attacker?

The first question is what kind of residence status the perpetrator has. In this case, the man’s asylum application was initially rejected. After that, he was obviously tolerated and later obtained a residence permit. This could be because he worked, got married or has children. He would now have to be deported – at first glance, this would not be a big problem due to this crime. However, the current situation in Afghanistan and the fact that he has a wife and two children here would have to be taken into account. This is then a case-by-case decision and a balancing of interests.

What role do human rights violations play in Afghanistan, which returnees also have to fear?

The crucial question is: can this person exist in Afghanistan? If that is not possible or if they are threatened there, then they cannot and must not be deported. That is an absolute ban. Article three of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits this, even if someone is a serious criminal. There was a very interesting decision against England. Sufi and Elmi, two Somalis, were to be deported. One had made death threats, the other had dealt in heroin. Despite this, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that deportation was not possible. The country must then deal with the perpetrators itself.

There is also discussion about cooperation with third countries such as Pakistan. Would deportation to Afghanistan via Pakistan be possible?

First of all, a third country would need to be found to take in the perpetrators. But is it really the solution to tell Pakistan to take in the perpetrator from Mannheim and see how to deal with him itself? In addition, in order to be able to take him on to Afghanistan, Pakistan would then have to negotiate with the Taliban. They can’t just push the man across the border.

This all sounds unrealistic. How do you view the current debate?

The big problem with these statements by politicians is that the plan will not be implemented. The population is being led to believe that there is a simple solution. But nothing will come of it. At this point, right-wing populists come along and accuse the government of only making speeches but actually doing nothing.

Let us assume that the perpetrator of the Mannheim attack is convicted: does he face deportation after his prison sentence or does he have a right to rehabilitation?

That’s the case. If the offender is sentenced to a long or life sentence, deportation does not happen immediately. The immigration authorities do not have to react immediately – after all, he is in prison. When it comes to deportation later, the offender’s personal situation must be assessed. This includes, among other things, his development in prison and his family situation. Of course, a foreign offender is also allowed to reintegrate into society. However, this is very difficult with such serious crimes.

Right-wing populists make it seem as though deportations are a preventative measure. Shouldn’t we intervene earlier?

That is cynical – especially when someone has been murdered. You simply have to start much earlier. For example, there is no screening to see whether people are vulnerable or even dangerous when they enter the country as asylum seekers. In Bavaria, at the beginning of such a procedure, there is no check at all to see whether people have problems. Caritas, which is overwhelmed, is supposed to hear about such things in the accommodations. This means that it is more a matter of chance whether someone like that is identified as a threat.

What do you want from the Chancellor and the traffic light government in the current discourse?

One should always be honest and realistic. Chancellor Scholz should have spoken about punishment first and then emphasized how difficult it is to get someone out of the country. But the Chancellor makes it seem as though there is a simple solution. Arguments should not be so undifferentiated. I would expect a head of government to analyze the problem and then develop a feasible solution.

Thank you very much for the interview, Mr Bethäuser.

By Alexander Spöri

The original of this article “Deportation to Afghanistan? Defense attorney tears apart Olaf Scholz’s plan” comes from Abendzeitung.