ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The arrest of a German academic has prompted a global campaign on his behalf. His name is Andrej Holm. He's an urban sociologist at Humboldt University in Berlin. Three weeks ago, German Federal Police arrested him and a colleague for alleged links to a terrorist organization called militante gruppe, or MG, militant group. What has led sociologists and anthropologists in Europe and the U.S. to circulate a letter demanding Dr. Holm's freedom is that those links consists largely of his writings.
Kate Connolly is Berlin correspondent for the British daily, The Guardian, and she's written about this. And Kate Connolly, what is Andrej Holm actually accused of?
Ms. KATE CONNOLLY (Berlin Correspondent, The Guardian): Well, he's accused of actually having an association to a terrorist group, and it's, as you mentioned, the militante gruppe. But according to his supporters, the evidence is very, very flimsy and quite circumstantial.
SIEGEL: He has written extensively, I gather, on the subject of gentrification. Give us some context in contemporary Berlin for that.
Ms. CONNOLLY: Yeah. Mr. Holm, he's 36. He's quite a well-known urban sociologist, not just in Germany, but throughout the world. He's made a name for himself with his research into the effects that urban renewal has had on huge areas and residential parts of the German capital since the Berlin Wall fell. Basically, he has been campaigning for a controlled urban renewal that doesn't just mean that the old residents who've lived there for years get pushed out and new, rich residents move in.
SIEGEL: And what, if anything, does his writing against the gentrification have to do with the militante gruppe?
Ms. CONNOLLY: According to the federal prosecutors office, they are suspicious of words and phrases that he has used in his writings. They cite the word gentrification and inequality in his academic papers. And they say that these are terms that are similar to those that have been used by this urban activist organization. In turn - I have to explain militante gruppe has been accused of the carrying out of various arson attacks in Brandenburg and Berlin over the last few years, mainly targeting areas where this gentrification process have seen to have taken place.
SIEGEL: But a large part of the accusation against Andrej Holm, you were saying, is that he - in his writings - criticized gentrification and inequality and that the MG, militante gruppe, is against gentrification and inequality.
Ms. CONNOLLY: That's it. They noticed in his writings and the literature of the militante gruppe that there was a frequent overlap between the words used by him and the group. They said it was a striking resemblance and that it was not to be explained through any other coincidence.
SIEGEL: Now, there are also, I gather, is an alleged meeting between Andrej Holm and other people accused of being involved in MG, in militante gruppe.
Ms. CONNOLLY: That's it. The federal prosecutors are saying that Mr. Holm met twice, three men who were also arrested on suspicion of involvement in a particular arson attack. It's also been suggested that after one of those meetings that Mr. Holm went to that he didn't take his mobile phone with him in order to - say the federal prosecutors - avoid detection.
SIEGEL: Well, is anybody saying that Andrej Holm urged people to set fires to things or to take violent actions against either people or property?
Ms. CONNOLLY: That's being carefully inferred by the prosecutor's office. But his colleagues at the various institutes in Germany and around the world are saying that the allegations against him are quite outrageous.
SIEGEL: Is this an example of data mining, of looking for key words that appear in radical text and in academic's work?
Ms. CONNOLLY: It would appear that something like that is going on. That they basically looks patterns between the literature of the MG and Mr. Holm's literature. And they've also cited to the worry of the academics, the fact that he and their colleague with whom he was arrested have access to a library, which they said, meant they were intellectually in a position to compile the sophisticated text of the militante gruppe. So they are actually suggesting that he might have been the author of the group's text. Alarm bells have obviously been ringing in the academic world when they hear such allegations.
SIEGEL: Kate Connolly, thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. CONNOLLY: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's Kate Connolly who is Berlin correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, talking with us about the arrest three weeks ago of German sociologist Andrej Holm.
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