Trial delayed for man accused of kicking woman down Berlin station stairs

Update: The trial of a man accused of kicking a woman down the stairs of a Berlin metro station has been delayed due to an allegation of bias against a court assessor.

Trial delayed for man accused of kicking woman down Berlin station stairs
Screenshot from the footage shared by police.

The process was set to begin on Thursday, but the man’s defence team filed a claim accusing one of the court lay assessors of being biased.

In Germany, such assessors help criminal courts make decisions on points of law and fact, along with professional jurists.

The defence team said that the assessor wrote letters to the editor in a newspaper, complaining about criminal youth with immigrant roots. The defendant is a 28-year-old Bulgarian man.

The court must now decide whether the woman is in fact biased, and thus whether they must find a replacement assessor. If they do decide to find someone new, this could take several more weeks before the trial would resume again. The court is set to reconvene on Tuesday.

The defendant faces charges of grievous bodily harm over kicking the young woman down the stairs in October 2016, an act caught on CCTV cameras.
The attack caused public outcry across Germany. On the grainy footage, a man could be seen walking up behind an unsuspecting woman, and kicking her violently down the stairs of Hermanstrasse U-Bahn station.

Immediately after the crime, police searched in vain for the attacker. But after weeks without an arrest, they made the unusual decision to publicly release video footage of the attack.

SEE ALSO: Why the Berlin U-Bahn attack video grabbed the world's attention

By mid-December, they had detained a cousin of the suspect who also appeared on the CCTV footage, and officials then believed that the main suspect had gone into hiding in his Bulgarian homeland.

But shortly before Christmas, the suspect was arrested at Berlin’s central bus station after he arrived on a long-distance bus from southern France.

The charge of grievous bodily harm entails a sentence of anywhere between six months and ten years in jail. The defendant also has several charges of theft and driving without a licence in Bulgaria, and has reportedly admitted to police that he committed the crime.

The 26-year-old victim, who suffered a broken arm and head injuries in the fall, is a co-plaintiff in the case.

Prosecutors say that the attack “had the potential to endanger her life.”

The defendant faces a further charge of public exhibitionism. Prosecutors allege that he masturbated in front of two women in the middle of the day in the Reinickendorf neighbourhood of Berlin two weeks before the violent assault. He then repeated this crime in front of another witness around 35 minutes later.


Blaze-hit section of Berlin’s Grunewald forest to ‘remain shut for years’

The closure in Berlin Grunewald, where a disastrous fire spread earlier this month, is due to exploded munition remnants littering the forest floor.

Blaze-hit section of Berlin’s Grunewald forest to 'remain shut for years'

Two weeks since a devastating fire ravaged part of Berlin’s Grunewald forest, the head of the city’s forests division says the burned out section will have to shut for the next few years.

At 3,000 hectares (about 7,400 acres), Grunewald is the largest green space in Berlin and located on the city’s western edge. The forest – which is nicknamed the ‘green lung’ of Berlin – is a popular area for hiking, biking, and swimming in its lakes.

The forest’s southern half also contains Sprengplatz, an area set up in 1950 to collect and detonate leftover munitions from WWII, particularly those left by allied bombing raids of the then-Nazi capital.

The fire, which broke out at Sprengplatz, scattered detonated many pieces of leftover munitions all over the surrounding forest floor.

READ ALSO: ‘Unprecedented’: How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin’s Grunewald forest

Berlin Forests says the police will be detonating larger explosives in the coming weeks, but that it will take much longer to search for and safely dispose of smaller pieces.

“It’s very time-consuming work and it will take years to collect everything,” Berlin Forests Head Gunnar Heyne told regional broadcaster rbb. “The forest will remain closed for at least that long.”

Heyne is confident though, that the forest itself will recover well quickly, particularly its oak and poplar trees.

While the area around Sprengplatz will remain shut, much of the rest of the forest, including the path to Grunewald’s popular Teufelsee—or “Devil’s Lake,” remain open.

READ ALSO: Firefighters bring Berlin forest fire under control after munitions explosion