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High court orders retrial in asylum-seeker death
Photo: DPA

High court orders retrial in asylum-seeker death

Published: 07 Jan 2010 11:41 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Jan 2010 11:41 GMT+01:00

The case of an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone who burned to death in a Dessau jail cell must be retried, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday – the five-year anniversary of his death.

The presiding judges found that a December 2008 decision by the Dessau-Roßlau regional court to acquit a 47-year-old police officer of bodily harm with fatal consequences was flawed.

On January 7, 2005, the 23-year-old Oury Jalloh allegedly set fire to a mattress with a cigarette lighter while his hands and feet were shackled to a jail cell bed. State prosecutors said he could have been saved if police had acted fast enough to get him out of the cell.

The 47-year-old officer and a 44-year-old colleague said they had tied Jalloh's hands and feet because he had been violent after being arrested for drunkenly harassing women. When the fire alarm went off they allegedly turned it off several times before checking the jail cell.

But the chain of events could not have happened as it was presented during the trial, the court ruled on Thursday. Judges were unable to determine whether Jalloh set the fire himself, or how it would have been possible to do so, calling it a “substantial gap in the consideration of evidence.”

“There is a circumstance described that is difficult to comprehend,” said Ingeborg Tepperwien, one of the BGH judges who reviewed the case.

The Magdeburg regional court will now take up the case to determine whether the senior officer was at fault for Jalloh’s death, which sparked outrage among human rights activists in Germany.

Break the Silence, an initiative formed by a network of human rights groups to clarify Jalloh’s death, staged a demonstration on Thursday in Dessau for the fifth anniversary of his death.

“Our organisation believes believe that Oury Jalloh was murdered and we hope for the opportunity to prove this,” Osaren Igbinoba, an activist for one of the initiative’s founding groups, The VOICE Refugee Forum, told The Local on Thursday. “We will continue to build solidarity so that these people are convicted for what they did.”

The initiative also has plans for an independent commission to review the case, he said.

Director of the Initiative for Black Germans (ISD) Tahir Della, who has also supported the appeal of case to the high court, told The Local that the group believes judges made the correct decision.

“There were so many inconsistencies and retracted statements – which the judge himself also said during the trial,” Della said.

“It’s absolutely necessary to get the truth about what exactly happened that night. It’s clear that the officers at the scene did not do their duty to protect their prisoner – and there must be consequences.”

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DDP/Kristen Allen (kristen.allen@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

02:12 January 8, 2010 by CalBill
A scumbag abuser of women died by his own hand -- who cares?
03:52 January 8, 2010 by sc123
Why is it the cops fault if the idiot lit the mattress he was strapped to, amen to who cares!!:)
09:28 January 8, 2010 by auniquecorn
The cops most likely beat him to death, and lit the matress to cover it up.
14:27 January 8, 2010 by LancashireLad
That (auniquecorn #3) sounds most likely. How do you set light to anything if you are tied up?

It is irrelevant what he had done, however odious. He died in Police custody amid suspicious circumstances which were obviously not satisfactorily explained during the original trial.

This cannot be allowed to happen. We accuse people like Saddam and the Taliban of things like that, so how can we stand by and let it happen here?

I hope the judges of the original trial are also scrutinised if not put on trial themselves.
15:37 January 8, 2010 by WilliamDGoose
The man was acquitted and the German court system says that he must be retried again and again until he is convicted and jailed. What a bunch of Nazis. This is wrong. Hitler would be proud.
15:44 January 8, 2010 by LancashireLad
¦quot;substantial gap in the consideration of evidence.¦quot;

Allowing it to happen and brushing it under the carpet sounds more totalitarian than finding out what really happened. Hitler would probably have been proud of the outcome of the original trial.
18:58 January 8, 2010 by locally
To the Cops,

Whether you are Black or White,from the poorest or the richest part of the World,we are all the same(Human).

But above all,let us never forget that God is looking down on us,and he's gonna judge us all by what we did here on Earth.

Our lies to cover the wrongs we have done against someone won't be enough to spare us from the consequences of our sins.

God is watching...
19:21 January 8, 2010 by allhappy
calbill and sc123,you two are quite unreasonable mammals.How in your brainless manners do you accept the fact that a chained Guy burnt himself(For the German cops to put male in prison with or without chain,they normally remove the clothes except the underwear(s)).

Maybe the cops were miles away in their own station to rescue a guy burning in pain,agony,and to death in the same police station.

Could you imagine how that hurts to Die a slow and painful Death.

Imagine someone Dear to you in such condition.

Thats probably the same like Steve Biko.
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