Otto Georg Schily (born 20 July 1932) was Federal Minister of the Interior of Germany from 1998 to 2005, in the cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
Born in Bochum as the son of a mining plant director, he grew up in a family of anthroposophists. His younger brother is Konrad Schily, an academic and also a politician. In 1962, he passed his second state exam after having studied law and politics in Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin, thus being admitted to the bar; a year later, he opened his own law practice.
In the 1970s, he became a public figure as a trial lawyer, defending several guerrilla activists of the left-wing Red Army Faction. In 1971, he represented his friend Horst Mahler (who much later would become an advocate of the fascist National Democratic Party); during the Stammheim trial (1975–1977), he was the only remaining attorney of Gudrun Ensslin. While he gained popularity and respect for acting according to his own moral principles, some accused him of supporting the radicals' goals.
In 1980, he became founding member of the Green Party and was elected to the Bundestag in 1983. Due to the party's policy of rotating its representatives, he had to leave parliament in 1986, but he was re-elected in 1987. Increasingly estranged from the fundamentalist wing of the Greens, particularly regarding alliances with larger parties, he left the party in 1989, resigned from his seat in parliament, and joined the Social Democrats (SPD) instead – which he represented in the new Bundestag in 1990. In subsequent years, he was active in affairs of the former East Germany and in coordinating various legal policies of the SPD.
After Gerhard Schröder became chancellor in 1998, he appointed Schily as Minister of the Interior. He was frequently criticized for conservative policies, such as pushing through German anti-terrorist legislation after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, which were seen as contradictory to his earlier beliefs. Political analysts, however, viewed him as an indispensable member of the cabinet, who would insulate Schröder from conservative criticism on issues of crime and immigration. At over 70 years of age, he was the oldest member of the cabinet.
After serving as a minister, he became a supervisory board member of two companies for biometric technologies, raising questions as to whether or not he was capitalizing on his work as minister, regarding the implementation of biometric passports.
On 29 March 2007 he took responsibility for the handling of the case of Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2001, turned over to U.S. authorities and held at the U.S. prison camp in Cuba as a terror suspect. Kurnaz was released in 2006 and returned to Germany. In 2005, he received the Leo Baeck Medal for his humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice.
Schily is on his second marriage and has two daughters from his first marriage, Jenny, born 1967 (an actress), and Anna, born 1981.
- "Germany Introduces Biometric Passports", Deutsche Welle. January 1, 2005. Accessed March 1, 2010
- "Schily Season" Weekly Standard, March 29, 2004. Accessed March 1, 2010
- "Ex-Innenminister Schily wird Aufsichtsrat der Biometric Systems AG" "Ex-Interior Minister Schily on the Supervisory Board of Biometric Systems AG," ngo-online.de August 11, 2006. Accessed March 1, 2010 (German)
- "Ex-Interior Minister Takes Political Responsibility for Kurnaz Case" Deutsche Welle March 29, 2007. Accessed March 1, 2010
- German Historic Museum biography of Otto Schily (German)
- Portrait in the Financial Times Deutschland (German)
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