Classification as a "relevant person" is made by the police
The classification as a "relevant person" is made according to a definition of the Federal Criminal Police Office in the field of politically motivated crime. According to this definition, a person is "relevant" if they "assume the role of a leader, supporter/logistician or actor within the extremist/terrorist spectrum" and objective indications "allow the prognosis that they promote, support, commit or participate in politically motivated crimes of considerable importance (...)." The classification may give rise to various types of covert surveillance for the police. These include long-term observation, the use of trusted third parties or the alert for a control report. The latter means that the system is automatically notified when a "relevant person" comes under police control.
Peaceful protest and climbing actions
Environmental activist Cécile Lecomte has become known for spectacular climbing actions, which is why she is nicknamed "the squirrel." She engages in peaceful (protest) actions on her blog and on topics such as nuclear and coal energy, genetic engineering and consumer criticism. The fact that this places her in the extremist or terrorist spectrum cannot be justified either by legal requirements or even by the BKA's definition. Rather, the impression arises that Lecomte was deliberately classified as a "relevant person" by the authorities in order to carry out more extensive surveillance measures.
Cécile Lecomte did not initially learn of her classification as a "relevant person." Even when the LKA deleted her entry in 2015, she was not informed about the conditions that had originally led to the classification. "Without knowledge about one's own classification, there is no way to defend oneself against it and to claim legal protection. If, in addition, it is not clear what encroachments on personal rights are taking place as a result of surveillance measures and whether there was any control by third parties, I think this is unacceptable," says Lecomte.
In fact, it is the exception that the person concerned learns about their classification at all and can demand information about surveillance measures. This offers the rare opportunity to learn more about the measures that would otherwise be carried out covertly. "German authorities classify hundreds of people as 'relevant' - with serious consequences, but so far without any effective control. It's time to shed light on this opaque practice," says Dr. Ulf Buermeyer.
Lawsuit in the context of stricter police laws
Beyond the individual case, the lawsuit sends a signal for stronger control of police actions. The authorities must not arbitrarily use laws that serve to fight terrorism against citizens they do not approve of. Instead of taking cases like Cécile Lecomte's as an opportunity to critically question police actions, we are witnessing an expansion of police powers nationwide. The state parliament of Lower Saxony is also working on an amendment to the Lower Saxony Police Act, which is intended to massively expand the surveillance and control powers of the police.