The now 26-year-old student told The Local in March he had been asked for his identification around 15 times in three years when travelling on trains between Kassel and Frankfurt. “The only thing I probably did was to look illegal,” he said.
In December 2010 he got into an argument with two federal police officers who demanded his ID but could not tell him why – so he refused to show them.
The federal police admitted they generally selected people for spot ID checks on the basis of their appearance – including skin colour, and this led to a court case at the end of February.
To the outrage of many, the Koblenz administrative court said such racial profiling was justified.
The student, who does not want to be identified, vowed to fight it, and on Monday afternoon the Koblenz administrative appeals tribunal nullified the initial ruling.
“The two officers were questioned by the tribunal, which then said making decisions on the basis of skin colour was illegal,” the tribunal's spokesman Hartmut Müller-Rentschler told The Local.
“A representative of the federal police apologised to the plaintiff, who said that this was enough to satisfy him. As a result the case was deemed closed and the ruling of the lower court was declared to have no effect; it was nullified.”
Though this is not as legally strong as a formal verdict that racial profiling was illegal, Müller-Rentschler said it was likely to be taken as a signal, and that the federal police were likely to examine and change their practices.
“This result is a milestone for the legal classification of racial profiling as against the law. This case sends a significant signal for the practice of the federal police,” the student's lawyer Sven Adam said afterwards in a statement.
“I am happy that the decision of the Koblenz administrative court's decision has been declared null and void,” said the student. “We had to fight for a long time so that the federal police had to adhere to the ban on discrimination.”
Tahir Della, from the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) welcomed the ruling. “We have been fighting for years for public recognition of this practice. Police checks of this kind are no one-off.
“They are the everyday experience of many black people and people of colour in Germany. They are put under suspicion and criminalised by this police practice. We hope that this verdict will serve as a basic political signal.”