BERLIN – Germany's high court on Monday blocked the extradition of an Al Qaeda (search) suspect to Spain after ruling that Europe's new wide-ranging arrest warrant is invalid under German law in its current form.
The court decision came as Europe moved to clamp down on terrorism after London's July 7 attacks that killed at least 55 people. Monday's ruling upheld an appeal by Al Qaeda suspect Mamoun Darkazanli (search), a German-Syrian dual national, accused by Spain of providing the terror network with logistical and financial support.
"When one is sitting innocent in prison, it's a terrible thing — I'm going to be glad to see him home," his wife, Brigitte Darkazanli, said after the verdict.
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that the European warrant violated the German constitution and the suspect's basic rights. Germany's constitution prohibits the extradition of its own citizens.
Darkazanli was taken into custody in October at Spain's request, and his case was seen as a test of the new European arrest warrant — a system meant to allow the swift cross-border handover of suspected terrorists — which came into force in Germany in August 2004. EU officials insist the warrant will survive the German court ruling.
EU Spokesman Martin Selmayr said the ruling did not declare the European arrest warrant unconstitutional, but merely the German national law that implements it.
"From a first reading, it's a judgment that declares null and void the German implementation law, not the European arrest warrant," Selmayr said in Brussels.
Darkazanli has never been charged in Germany.
"He must be set free following this verdict, which is a blow for the government in its efforts to fight against terrorism," Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said.
Darkazanli, 46, appears in a 1999 wedding video with two of the three Sept. 11, 2001, suicide pilots Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah who lived and studied in Hamburg along with lead hijacker Mohamed Atta.
His wife reiterated his contention that while he knew those involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, he was not privy to their plans.
"He didn't have anything to do with any part of the whole story," she told The Associated Press.
Darkazanli is among 41 suspects, including Usama bin Laden (search), indicted by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who has been investigating Al Qaeda. He faces up to 12 years in a Spanish prison if convicted of membership in a terrorist organization.
Selmayr, the EU spokesman, said the court's ruling was a blow to European anti-terrorism plans in the short term because the warrant will not apply in Germany until a new national law on implementing it is introduced.
The United States has labeled Darkazanli's Hamburg-based trading company a front for terrorism. He appeared on U.S. suspect lists after Sept. 11, but has denied any links to bin Laden or the attacks.