BERLIN – German authorities remained largely mum on Tuesday about the continued operation of a reportedly Hezbollah-controlled NGO in the state of Lower Saxony.

According to reports, the organization – the Orphans Project Lebanon e.V. (Waisenkinderprojekt e.V.) – finances the families of Hezbollah members who commit suicide bombings against Israelis, and supports the Lebanese Shi’ite group’s assassins and operatives.

Domestic intelligence agency reports in June cited the project, which is based in the university city of Göttingen, as a Hezbollah operation.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Lower Saxony’s intelligence agency told The Jerusalem Post that there were 130 active Hezbollah members in the state. There are a total of 950 Hezbollah members spread across the Federal Republic, including 250 members in Berlin.

Asked if there were plans to ban the Orphans Project Lebanon, German Interior Ministry spokesman Markus Beyer-Pollok told the Post by email that the ministry could not, as a rule, provide any information about a “possible process to ban an association.”

He added that the federal domestic intelligence report had cited the organization, and that the Interior Ministry could not “issue a statement beyond the report about the operational activities of the security agencies.”

According to a 2009 report by the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD), the Orphans Project Lebanon funnels donations to the Al Shahid Association in Lebanon. Alexander Ritzmann, the report’s author, said at the time that Al Shahid was “disguised as a humanitarian organization” and “promotes violence and terrorism in the Middle East using donations collected in Germany and elsewhere.”

The EFD report stated that Al Shahid provided financial support to “martyr families in Lebanon, for the purpose of relieving militiamen and assassins of the responsibility to provide for their families’ future. In this way, the ‘Orphans Project Lebanon e.V’ encourages engagement in military and terrorist activities.”

It is unclear whether the Hezbollah organization in Germany is sending funds to Hezbollah fighters in Syria to aid President Bashar Assad. The Merkel government has categorically refused to provide lethal aid to the rebels combating Assad and Hezbollah.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has also declared that Israel’s security is “nonnegotiable” for her government. Asked whether the existence of the Hezbollah NGO in Germany conflicted with that pledge, Beyer-Pollok wrote that that “would be a political question” and that there was nothing to add to the factual answers the Interior Ministry had provided.

He noted that there were well-known and clear statements from the federal government about the security of the State of Israel.

A spokesman for the federal government referred all Post questions to the Interior Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry, too, declined to comment and said the Interior Ministry was responsible.

According to the EFD report, the German government provided a tax subsidy to the Orphans Project. In response to a legislative initiative by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Free Liberal parties, the state government wrote in 2 010 that the tax subsidy for the Hezbollah NGO had been eliminated.

Anke Pörksen, a spokeswoman for the government in Lower Saxony, refused to comment on Tuesday about the state government taking action to close the Hezbollah NGO.

On Wednesday, Social Democratic Party spokeswoman Daniela Gäbel and chancellorship candidate Peer Steinbrück declined to comment on whether the latter favored shutting down the Hezbollah NGO.

Under German law, there is a basis for outlawing the Hezbollah NGO in the country. A Federal Administrative Court ruled in 2004 that an association may be blacklisted “if by means of significant financial donations over a long period of time, it supports a group that introduces violence into people’s relations and if the resulting impairment of peaceful relationships between peoples results from a corresponding intent on the part of the association.”

So far, two of the 620 parliamentarians in the Bundestag have called this year for Germany to outlaw Hezbollah unilaterally in the Federal Republic.

Thomas Feist, an MP in Merkel’s CDU party and head of the local German-Israeli friendship society in Leipzig, wrote recently on his website that “we should no longer allow Hezbollah to take advantage of an association-friendly legal climate in Germany and Europe to collect money to conduct terrorist attacks – also in Europe.”

And MP Philipp Missfelder, a foreign policy spokesman for the CDU in the Bundestag, has called for Germany and the EU to evict Hezbollah from the territories of the Federal Republic and the EU.

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