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Munich officer broke woman's nose in cell

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Woman's self-portrait in hospital shows extent of injuries. Photo: Private
13:20 CET+01:00
Munich police are being investigated for use of excessive force after an officer punched a handcuffed 23-year-old woman in the face while she was in police custody, wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung over the weekend.

The unnamed woman, who left a police cell with a broken nose and a broken eye socket, had initially called the police for help after a fight with her boyfriend had got out of hand on Regerplatz in the Au district of Munich on January 20th, wrote the paper.

On arrival, officers told the woman and her boyfriend to accompany them to the police station. On the way the woman had attempted to phone her mother, but was told by police this was not allowed, the woman's lawyer Franz J. Erlmeier told the paper.

Police took the woman's mobile phone away and pushed her to the floor of the police van, before handcuffing her, said Erlmeier. “She panicked and could hardly breathe,” he told the paper.

At the police station, officers put her in a cell “to calm her down,” according to police press spokesman Reinhold Bergmann. Four officers then restrained her on a bench, her hands still cuffed behind her back. The woman resisted and spat in the face of one unnamed 33-year-old officer, who later said he saw her head move as if she was about to headbutt him.

So he punched her in the face - he claims just once - breaking her nose and eye socket, in what he says was "self defence," but Erlmeier says was use of “excessive force.”

Police then left the bleeding and handcuffed woman alone in the cell until a doctor arrived. She was later taken to hospital. Meanwhile the officers wrote up their reports and charged the woman with resisting the police, causing offence and bodily harm to a police officer (spitting at him), wrote the paper.

Five days later the state prosecutor launched an investigation into the matter after reviewing the reports and doubting the officer's claim that he had acted in self-defence.

The woman claims an officer filmed the whole incident on his mobile phone – evidence which could be key to the investigation - but the police deny any such video exists.

She said she saw one officer holding a lit-up device in his hand she believes was a smartphone, but which the police say was a torch needed to light the scene so the woman could be searched.

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The state prosecutor said they have not seen any footage, but are taking the potential for any video evidence very seriously. “We can't rule out the possibility that there's a video,” senior prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch told the paper.

Erlmeier has dismissed police claims that the woman had been on drugs as an attempt to “cast her in a bad light. But the police can't make light of this massive bodily harm,” he told the paper.

The Local/jlb

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