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Germany’s new strategy for terror suspects? Kick them out, even if they were born there

A banner in German, English and Arabic in the northern town of Northeim, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
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The German government plans to deport two men investigated for allegedly planning a terrorist attack — even though both were born in Germany and they were not charged.

Arrangements are now being made for the two suspects to be deported separately to Algeria and Nigeria, where their parents are from. Neither man is a German citizen, and both will also be barred from reentering the country, authorities said.

A spokesman for the Lower Saxony Interior Ministry told the German news agency DPA that it was the first time such a policy was implemented in Germany.

The two men were arrested in Göttingen during a raid Feb. 9 and were found with an Islamic State flag and a gun. At the time, police claimed they were active members of a local extremist network, and they were likely planning a terrorist attack. However, prosecutors decided not to take up the case, saying the pair discussed an attack but had not made any serious plans for action.

The decision to deport the men underscores the harsher line by Germany on suspected extremists following a number of attacks over the past few years. It is also part of a broader trend of governments willing to bar long-standing residents, sometimes even citizens, for militant ties.

Australia, Canada and Britain are among countries that have revoked citizenship of those who left to join extremist factions. The European Court of Human Rights recently upheld Britain's right to take such action. The U.S. Justice Department is currently seeking to strip an American of his U.S. citizenship after he was convicted on terrorism charges in a plot to sabotage New York's Brooklyn Bridge — a move that may suggest a shift under the new Trump administration.

The measures concern human rights activists, who argue that stripping citizenship could be counterproductive or produce stateless people (though in most cases the suspect tends to be a dual national).

For the suspects in Göttingen, however, there was no citizenship to revoke. Unlike the United States, the German concept of citizenship is based on “jus sanguinis,” which means the nationality of their parents dictates citizenship rather than their birthplace.

Lower Saxony's interior minister, Boris Pistorius, said he welcomed the decision to deport the two terrorist suspects, explaining that it sent a message to “fanatics” around the world. “Regardless of whether they were born here or not,” he said, according to DPA.

The deportations could take place in a few weeks, although the deportation of the Algerian is conditional on assurances from the Algiers government that he will be treated humanely.

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