Planners Network Protest of the Situation in Germany : Academic Freedom

Date published: 2/28/2008

February 28, 2008
Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof
c/o Ermittlungsrichter Hebenstreit
Herrenstraße 45
D-76133 Karlsruhe


Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof
Brauerstraße 30
D-76137 Karlsruhe

To the Attorney of the German Federal Supreme Court:

This is a letter of protest and petition against the abuse of academic freedom continuing to be committed in Germany against a number of individuals including Dr. Andrej Holm and Dr. Matthias Bernt for alleged membership in a criminal organization.  We recognize that these charges have been lessened as of the court ruling in 2007.  However, the ongoing observation and criminal procedures against our colleagues remains an abuse of intellectual freedom and democracy.

We are the Planners Network, a group of academics, researchers and practitioners who work in the field of urban planning and geography in North America and beyond.  We write because what is currently taking place in Germany undermines academic integrity and freedom, and serves a gross injustice against the individuals being persecuted and by extension all of us who pursue the truth in our research endeavors.  The actions of the German police and by extension the German state are the antithesis of what our organization considers to be foundational to proper academic research and endeavor: these are an open but critical and inquiring mind, the ability to publish freely the results of research that was undertaken with rigor and integrity, and the right to live in freedom where those responsibilities have been upheld.

Individuals involved in this case include researchers and academics of the highest integrity, whose work has made a very great contribution to urban geography and planning in recent years in raising key issues and concerns for urban and public policy.  We hold all of the accused in the highest regard and are appalled at the attempts made by the German state to brand those accused as criminals on the flimsy evidence that has thus far been presented.

The arguments used in the arrest of these individuals render every academic research activity that is politically engaged as potentially criminal. Since we believe that all research activity should be politically engaged toward justice and human rights, but always rigorous and undertaken with the highest of ethical integrity, this presents a very dangerous course of action.  In North America and elsewhere, academics routinely intervene in social struggles for just outcomes, this is an essential part of our work.  We also believe that gentrification is a legitimate subject of research, and research collaborations that include community organizations taking action against gentrification are valuable.  The actions of the German state in this case undermine this by criminalizing such political engagement.

We demand that the Federal Prosecutor (Bundesanwaltschaft) immediately suspend the ongoing proceedings against all parties concerned. We strongly reject the outrageous accusation that the academic research activities and the political engagement of these scholars are to be viewed as complicity in an alleged criminal association.  We wish to lend our voices to those in Germany to demand the abolition of §129 terrorism laws.

Sincerely yours,

Marie Kennedy   Norma Rantisi
Co-Chair             Co-Chair

For the Planners Network Steering Committee:

Tom Angotti
Carlos Balsas
Cornell Carney
Jocelyne Chait
Lee Deuben
Ann Forsyth
Stacey Harwood
Chester Hartman
Marie Kennedy
Josh Lerner
Richard Milgrom
Marla Nelson
Meredith Phillips
Libby Porter
Norma Rantisi
Alex Schafran
Amy Sicilliano