Anujeet MajumdarJul 29, 2013 09:41:59 IST
Thousands of demonstrators were seen gathering across Germany to support whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. In addition, German writers published an open letter to German Chancellor Merkel which demanded an explanation for the country’s involvement in one of the National Security Agency spying programmes, according to RT News.
The protests extended across at least 40 German cities including Hamburg, Munich and Berlin. The largest rally though, was seen taking place in Frankfurt. The demonstration was initiated by a loose network which called itself #stopwatchingus. Participants, while responding to the call, gathered for marches while braving rising summer temperatures. Many held posters in support of NSA intelligence leaker Snowden. The protests began soon after Snowden was awarded the Whistleblower award, which was established by German human rights organisations in 1999.
The open letter issued to the German Chancellor, which was published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily, has the signatures of 48 German writers. In the letter, the authors, while demanding answers, said, “How come the BND [Germany's foreign intelligence service] and Verfassungsschutz [German domestic intelligence] use the NSA-program ‘XKeyScore’ for surveillance, even though there is no legal basis for it? Is the government going to bypass the rule of law, instead of defending it?"
Thousands gathered across Germany to protest the government's involvement in NSA spy programmes (Image credit: dw.de)
The letter has gained even more importance, after more than 5,000 people were seen putting their signatures below the text, after it was transformed into an online petition by one of its authors, writer Juli Zeh. Many of the demostrators turned to Twitter to show their support for the movement.
— Rebbecca Robertson (@beccamebabe) July 27, 2013
While talking about the covert NSA programmes that the country was part of, the letter said, “We witness a historic attack on our constitutional democracy, the reversal from presumption of innocence to general suspicion.” The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had earlier said that she was unaware of the PRISM programme until the media leaked Snowden’s revelations. That statement was proven false by Der Spiegel magazine, which was able to show that German secret services were also involved in the NSA spying process.
While the German Chancellor has been careful in commenting about the issue, Germany’s President Joachim Gauck has spoken out in defense of Snowden. As cited by Reuters, the President said, "This will normally only be put right if information is made public. Whoever draws the public's attention to it and acts out of conscience deserves respect." Furthering his stance on the same, Gauck, while talking about the NSA programme, said, "The fear that our telephones or mails are recorded and stored by foreign intelligence services is a constraint on the feeling of freedom and then the danger grows that freedom itself is damaged." The demonstration saw many protesters showing their ire for the German government's actions.
The German government, in the meanwhile, is planning to launch an initiative in order to reduce the criticism it is facing for aiding in the US-led spying programme. To that end, two of Germany’s most senior cabinet members have planned to request the United Nations to change its current privacy legislation, which has remained unchanged since 1966, when innovations like the cell phone and the Internet were not in existence.
However, the initiative is being criticised as a move to reduce the damage made on the German government’s reputation due to Snowden’s revelations about the clandestine US data gathering programmes.
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