Police probe anti-Macron street stunt in Berlin

German police said Monday they are investigating an incident in which a man wearing a mask depicting French President Emmanuel Macron was insulted and dragged through a Berlin street on a leash.

Police probe anti-Macron street stunt in Berlin
One of the main streets in Berlin-Neukölln. Photo: DPA

Inspectors are looking into a YouTuber who police suspect of “leading an acquaintance dressed in a wig and a Macron mask through the district of Neukölln a leash, while wearing a kaftan, and insulting him and pretending to beat him”.

It was not clear if any crime had been committed, but Germany has laws prohibiting incitement to hatred or violence.

The stunt on Saturday came amid a wave of protests in Muslim countries in recent days over Macron's defence of the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Video footage carried by German media shows the incident at a busy street in the southern Berlin district.

The man holding the rope can be seen shouting in Arabic and brandishing a belt, followed by a crowd of about 20 people.

The Tagesspiegel newspaper identified the YouTuber as Fayez Kanfash, a 20-something Syrian who has been living in Berlin for several years.

It remains unclear whether the action was intended as a protest or as satire.

The French president has defended France's freedom of speech laws in the wake of the October 16th killing of teacher Samuel Paty by a suspected Islamist radical.

Paty had shown a cartoon of the Muslim prophet to his class for a lesson on freedom of expression.

Islam forbids any depictions of Mohammed.

Tensions were heightened further last week when three people were knifed to death in a church in the southern city of Nice in another attack the government called an act of “Islamist” terror.

More than 50,000 people took part Monday in the biggest demonstration yet in Bangladesh, carrying effigies of Macron, caricatures and a fake coffin for the French president.

In Berlin, about 60 members of a Muslim group staged a protest on Friday in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the nearby French Embassy, local media reported.

Around 150 people also gathered in Neukölln on Thursday evening chanting critical slogans and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), according to Berlin newspaper BZ.

Authorities called on schools across Germany to join those in France in observing a minute of silence on Monday morning to remember teacher Paty.

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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.