Berlin squatters win court victory after ‘illegal’ police raid

A police raid on a squat in east Berlin in June, which led to a violent backlash from the far-left scene, was declared illegal by a court on Wednesday.

Berlin squatters win court victory after 'illegal' police raid
Police in Rigaer Strasse. Photo: DPA

During evictions at the legendary Rigaer Straße 94 in late June, police moved in to clear squatters out of the bottom floors on the building, emptying out a pub and a workshop.

The operations led to a backlash across the city, with the capital's robust far-left scene responding by attacking banks and state buildings and setting cars alight.

As tensions refused to subside, 123 policemen were reported injured over the weekend when a demonstration in solidarity with occupants of Rigaer Strasse 94 turned violent.

It was the worst violence the capital had witnessed in years after a long period of relative calm between Berlin’s left-wing scene and authorities, 

Now a Berlin state court has ruled that the police evictions were illegal, placing pressure on Berlin’s interior minister Frank Henkel, who signed off on the operation, Bild reports.

During the hearing, the court discovered that the building's owners did not have legal authorization to evict the squatters, nor did they bring judicial officers to the eviction.

Judge Nicola Herbst ordered the owners to give the premises back to the squatters until usage rights were fully resolved.

She appealed to the squatters “to find some way to negotiate with the owner so that the situation doesn’t spiral further out of control.”

The court was filled with people from the squatter and far-left scenes who applauded the ruling.

“We’ve won. I hope the Berlin police understand that now,” said the lawyer for the squatters, Lukas Theune.

'A disgrace for Berlin’s politics'

The Berliner Zeitung describes the police action as a “huge disgrace” for the capital’s politics.

“If there were ever a reason for an interior minister to resign, this is it.,” wrote editor-in-chief Brigitte Fehrle.

“How will he explain to the police chiefs that after a decades-long strategy of de-escalation that had proved successful, his high-handed actions have let the situation spin out of control again?”

In January Henkel already came in for serious criticism when he ordered a huge police raid on the same property in Rigaer Strasse after three masked people attacked a traffic cop.

“For four years Henkel has done nothing, and now for once he has had to show off the power of the state,” said Green party politician Canan Bayram at the time, implying it was a political stunt with an eye on state elections later in the year.

On Thursday though federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière lent his backing to Henkel.

“Using violence against police and neighbours and setting cars on fire is not acceptable,” he told the Berliner Zeitung. “It is right to act tough against that. You don’t negotiate with people who use violence.”

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.