Merkel calls for investigation into death of suspect found hanged in jail
This undated Handout pictures released on October 8, 2016 by the criminal office of Saxony shows a person believed to be the 22-year-old Syrian named Jaber Al-Bakr suspected of being involved in the found of explosive traces during the search of an apartment in Chemnitz, eastern Germany. (AFP/File)
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday called for an inquiry into the events surrounding the death of terrorism suspect and Syrian refugee Jaber al-Bakr, who committed suicide in his prison cell.
When a suicide occurs in a jail "then something has gone wrong and early warning signs have not been recognized resulting in misjudgments being made," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.
Seibert said Merkel "emphatically" backed calls for an inquiry into the events surrounding 22-year-old al-Bakr's death in a prison in Leipzig on Wednesday.
This could possibly lead to a clash between Merkel and her conservative party ally - the premier of the eastern German state of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich - who has strongly ruled out an independent investigation.
An autopsy confirmed that al-Bakr hanged himself from the bars of his prison cell using his T-Shirt.
Tillich admitted on Friday that mistakes had been made.
"In any event, the suicide should have been prevented," Tillich told the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, which represents the country's 16 states.
"Dealing with a prisoner accused of terrorism was not handled in [the] necessary way," he said. But "the establishment of an independent investigation commission is opposed by both the Saxony state government and myself."
Tillich's handling of the al-Bakr case was "an absolute scandal," political scientist Hajo Funke told dpa. "A broom is needed to clean all this up."
Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has also called for an investigation into the suicide of al-Bakr, who the authorities claim was planning an attack with "an Islamic State context" against a Berlin airport.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office said on Friday that al-Bakr had refused to make any further statements after his first police interrogation and after being questioned by a judge in Dresden, the capital of Saxony.
Siebert said al-Bakr's death made the investigation into those behind his alleged plot that much more difficult, echoing remarks made by de Maiziere, who said described al-Bakr's death as a blow to the fight against terrorism.
The justice minister in Tillich's Christian Democrat-led government, Sebastian Gemkow, has repeatedly rejected suggestions that he should resign in the wake of al-Bakr's suicide just two days after his arrest.
Three Syrian refugees hailed as "heroes" by Germany's media for their role in the arrest have denied any involvement in this alleged plot.
After realizing that al-Bakr was wanted by the police, the trio overpowered him, bound him with electric cable and held him in a Leipzig apartment until the police arrived.
Before his death, al-Bakr is reported to have claimed the three refugees - who had provided him shelter after he narrowly escaped police capture at the weekend - were part of the terrorism plan.
"We did not know who he was," one of the three Syrians, identified as Mohamed A, told the daily Bild.
"He wanted to take revenge on us from behind bars because we had turned him over to the police," Mohamed told the newspaper.
The three Syrians are now in hiding fearing revenge from the Islamic State extremist group.
By Andrew McCathie
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