'At his final heartbeat I knew I had to act'
The trial of a group of young men suspected of beating to death 20-year-old Jonny K. began in Berlin this week. His older sister's tireless campaigning for a safer capital in the wake of his death makes her our German of the Week.
Tina K. held her younger brother Jonny K.'s hand as she watched him die in hospital last October, after he was attacked by a group of young men late at night near the city's town hall. Six young men now face trial, four of them charged with aggravated battery resulting in death.
“At his final heartbeat, I knew I had to act,” the 28-year-old wrote in an open letter posted on the website of "I am Jonny," the anti-violence foundation she set up late last year. “We are not only responsible for what we do, but also for what we don't do,” it continues.
The only member of Jonny K's family in the courtroom on Monday, Tina has become the public face of the campaign against violence. It was, she told Bild newspaper, the first time she had seen the suspects, all aged between 19 and 24.
"I tried to look them in the eyes and some of them looked back but others wouldn't. Those who did had empty gazes," she said.
In the run-up to the trial, Tina also organised a charity concert held on what would have been her brother's 21st birthday. She has also been running workshops in schools to work towards creating a safer Berlin.
Regular television appearances and newspaper interviews have become the norm, and last year she received a Bambi media award, and was nominated for a regional paper and broadcaster's Berliner of the Year award.
Yet she did not plan to put herself into the public eye until she saw the media reports that followed Jonny K.'s death. “The newspapers said he was so drunk he couldn't stand, and concentrated just on him being Vietnamese,” she said.
In reality, it was Jonny's friend who was struggling to walk. Jonny had put him on a chair so he could go and get him a taxi when the group of young men arrived. The suspected ringleader, 19-year-old Onur U., denied this on Monday.
“I am convinced that 'I am Jonny' can find a way to change our increasingly unscrupulous society,” Tina K. told the Bild newspaper. “We want a safer Berlin, one in which we don't have to be scared every time our family, friends, or children go outside.”
Her work was praised by Berlin Interior Minister Frank Henkel on Monday morning. He told regional broadcaster RBB that Tina K. was an important force in the city's struggle against violence.
“No matter now painful it is, I will be [in the court room] each day,” she told Berliner Morgenpost. “I want them to tell me to my face what they did.”