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CRIME

Trial begins for ‘largest child abuse scandal in Germany history’

Three suspects appeared in court in Germany Thursday to answer charges of child sex assault spanning decades that shocked the nation when it was uncovered in January.

Trial begins for 'largest child abuse scandal in Germany history'
The caravan park in Lügde, sealed off by police tape. Photo: DPA

Prosecutors say more than 40 children were subjected to abuse at the
“Eichwald” caravan park in Lügde, North Rhine-Westphalia state, between 1998 and 2018, with most of them between three and 14 years old at the time.

One of the defendants alone — a 56-year-old who lived at the campsite — is accused of 298 crimes against children, in summer 1998 and between early 2008 and late 2018.

The two other defendants are a 34-year-old man also from North Rhine-Westphalia and a 49-year-old from neighbouring Lower Saxony state.

SEE ALSO: Police 'failures' probed 'in the largest child abuse scandal in German history'

Two of the three accused hid their faces behind files as they entered the courtroom.

Presiding judge Anke Grudda closed the state court in Detmold to reporters and the public as the charge sheet was read out, telling protesting journalists they would be allowed back in later.

She said the 27 plaintiffs had a right for their personal information contained in the document to be protected.

Before the behind-closed-doors hearing, Grudda said she was “stunned” by the “undoubtedly repugnant” nature and scale of the alleged crimes, adding that the trial would be a “huge challenge” for everyone involved.

The Lügde case is one of the biggest abuse scandals of recent decades in Germany.

Public outrage was all the stormier as official failures came to light following the discovery of the abuse in January.

District police lost some of the evidence gathered during the investigation, while children's welfare offices have also been criticized over the scandal.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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