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CRIME

Long-running German Love Parade stampede trial risks ending without verdict

One of the biggest trials in Germany's post-war history may end without a verdict, as a court called Tuesday for the long-running manslaughter case against organisers of the ill-fated 2010 Love Parade to be halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Long-running German Love Parade stampede trial risks ending without verdict
A memorial set up in 2019 at the scene of the tragedy. Photo: DPA

Three people are in the dock over negligent manslaughter and bodily harm after the popular street festival ended in a catastrophic stampede that left 21 young people dead.

The case against seven others was halted in February 2019 with the court arguing that, with so many defendants, the individual levels of guilt were difficult to assess.

READ ALSO: 'Sledgehammer blow': Shock as Germany scales back Love Parade disaster trial

The court in Duisburg said various restrictions placed on legal proceedings to stem contagion of COVID-19, such as social distancing and the need to isolate vulnerable people, meant there was now only “a very low probability of the allegations in a way that would lead to a conviction”.

Delaying the trial would not help the case as it risks hitting the statute of limitations on July 27th this year.

Prosecutors and the defence will have up to April 20 to file submissions on the court's call.

The state prosecutor said the proposal will be examined.

But lawyers representing co-plaintiffs said the call to halt the case would likely be accepted, spelling another “dark day for relatives and victims of the Love Parade disaster”.

Thirteen women and eight men were crushed, trampled to death or suffocated
on July 24th, 2010 when panic broke out in a narrow tunnel that served as the
only entrance and exit to the techno music event.

More than 650 people were also injured in the stampede that saw victims squashed against fences and walls.

The trial is one of the largest criminal cases Germany has ever seen, with the accused being represented by 32 lawyers while survivors and victims' relatives, acting as co-plaintiffs, have enlisted nearly 40 lawyers.

The scale of the trial and the huge public interest forced court officials
to move the proceedings to a convention hall in nearby Düsseldorf  that can seat 500 people.

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

The 2010 tragedy led organisers to declare that the Love Parade would never be held again “out of respect for the victims”.

READ ALSO: Remembering the Love Parade victims

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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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