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‘Sledgehammer blow’: Shock as Germany scales back Love Parade disaster trial

A German court Wednesday scaled back a marathon trial over the deaths of 21 young people in a stampede at a techno music festival, sparking anger from bereaved relatives.

'Sledgehammer blow': Shock as Germany scales back Love Parade disaster trial
The scene of the tragedy. Photo: DPA

The negligent homicide case, being held in Düsseldorf, was terminated for seven of the 10 defendants, leaving only three in the dock who have insisted they want to clear their names.

For the father of one victim, the news was a “sledgehammer blow,” said his lawyer Rainer Dietz, who added that “it seems our system can't handle this complex case”.

SEE ALSO: July 24th 2010: The day the music stopped

Eight men and 13 women were crushed, trampled to death or suffocated and 650 more injured in the 2010 crowd panic around a pedestrian tunnel at the festival in the city of Duisburg.

After years of delays, the court in late 2017 put on trial four festival organizers and six city officials on charges of negligent homicide and causing bodily harm.

Prosecutors accused them of “serious errors in planning and authorizing” the festival at a former rail freight yard in the Rhine river city.

However, the court has now suspended the trial against seven of the 10 accused, arguing that since many people shared culpability, the individual level of guilt was difficult to assess.

SEE ALSO: Techno festival organizers on trial in Düsseldorf over 21 deaths during stampede

 'Shocked, speechless'

The court also argued it would not be able to hear the more than 500 witnesses still scheduled to testify before a 10-year statute of limitations expires in July 2020.

Onlookers lay flowers at the scene of the disaster in 2011. Photo: DPA

It decided to order punitive payments of ´€10,000 each for three of the defendants, all former staff of event organizer Lopavent.

The court would have terminated the entire case, but the three accused who face fines insisted the trial continues so they can clear their names.

Victim's family lawyer Dietz was among many who voiced their disbelief, telling AFP that his client was “shocked” and left “speechless”.

Another victim's lawyer, Julius Reiter, said that, while the trial had brought some clarity on how the disaster unfolded, “the hope that those responsible will be tried is dead”.

'Never again'

The Love Parade started as an underground event in the former West Berlin in 1989, the year the Wall fell, before moving to other German cities, at times drawing over a million revellers.

The disaster victims were aged between 17 and 38 and came from Germany as well as Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

The scale of the trial and the huge public interest forced court officials to move the proceedings to a convention hall in Düsseldorf.

The tragedy led festival organizers to declare that the Love Parade would never be held again “out of respect for the victims”.

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Why an ‘old’ man is taking on German nightclubs’ door policies in court

Bouncers at German nightclubs are legendary for their reluctance to let too many people through the door. A Munich man is now taking one club to court for turning him away based on his age.

Why an ‘old’ man is taking on German nightclubs' door policies in court
Inside a night club in Berlin. Photo: DPA

In a case that could have an impact on clubs up and down the country, 47-year-old Nils Kratzer is challenging a nightclub’s door policy in the Federal Court in Karlsruhe on Thursday, arguing that a bouncer’s decision to turn him away at the door was discriminatory.

The incident occurred when Kratzer tried to get into an open air club night on the Praterinsel, a small island on the river Isar in Munich in 2017.

“I’ve never had anyone tell me to my face that I’m too old for a festival,” Kratzer said before the hearing. “On the contrary, I’ve often gone to festivals nationwide with my friends in the past and all ages have been represented.”

READ ALSO: ‘Alone Together’: How I had an unexpected night out at a German online bar

The club makes no bones about the fact that it told its bouncers to discriminate at the door, but argues that this was based on “optics” and not on age. It argues that, given that there was only space for 1,500 guests, it needed to discriminate on some grounds.

If Kratzer were to win the case, which he is basing on anti-discrimination laws introduced in 2006, it would force all German night clubs to review their door policies, as a ruling by a federal court sets a legal precedent.

But Kratzer has already failed to convince a Munich city court and a Bavarian state court of his case. At the Munich city court, he called his younger girlfriend to testify in order to establish his youthfulness.

Nils Kratzer. Photo: DPA

He also complained that Munich clubs have a culture of discrimination at their doors, saying one had turned him away for being a man, while he had also witnessed people being turned away based on their skin colour.

“Not all unequal treatment is discrimination,” argues Sandra Warden from the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. “Event organisers are free to decide whom they let in. The host’s right to decide is protected in our country.”

Warden said that clubs often discriminate based on age, such as at Ü-30 parties, ones where only people over the age of 30 are allowed to enter.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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