German court rules anti-coal eviction in Hambach Forest illegal

A German court found Wednesday that the violent 2018 eviction of a camp of environmental activists opposed to the expansion of a coal mine, during which a journalist died, was illegal.

German court rules anti-coal eviction in Hambach Forest illegal
Archive photo from 2018 shows a tree with 'Hambi remains' written on it in Hambach Forest. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

The ruling could deal another blow to Armin Laschet, regional leader of North Rhine-Westphalia where the eviction took place, who as the conservatives’ candidate to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel is lagging in the polls ahead of the September 26th election.

Judges at the court in the western city of Cologne found in favour of an activist who had sued local authorities.

The regional construction ministry stood accused of having ordered the eviction based on the “pretext” that the activists’ treehouses “violated fire protection building regulations”.

The aim was the “to suppress opponents of lignite”, the coal used to produce electricity, the judges said.

The Hambach forest near Cologne had been occupied by activists for years in what had come to symbolise resistance against brown coal mining in Germany, a country that despite its green reputation remains heavily reliant on this fossil fuel.

READ ALSO: ‘We were never given the time to mourn’: Activists continue fight for Hambach Forest

In September 2018, police evicted dozens of activists who had been living in treehouses to try and block energy giant RWE from razing part of the
ancient forest and expanding a giant open-pit mine.

It took nearly three weeks to carry out the evictions, with some activists throwing Molotov cocktails and stones, as well as bags of urine and faeces.

Tragedy struck when a freelance journalist covering the events died after falling through a walkway between two treehouses.

“With the illegal clearing of the Hambach forest, Armin Laschet endangered human lives for the profit of a coal company,” environmental movement Friday for Future charged on Twitter.

“Anyone in office who flouts the law in this way should no longer hold political responsibility.”

READ ALSO: Operation to evict Hambach Forest activists suspended after tragic death

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Woman on trial over killing spree at Potsdam care home

The trial began on Tuesday of a woman accused of stabbing four residents to death and severely injuring another at a German care home for disabled people where she worked outside Berlin.

Tributes laid where four people were killed at a care home in Potsdam.
Tributes laid where four people were killed at a care home in Potsdam. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Soeren Stache

Named as Ines Andrea R., the 52-year-old suspect is charged with four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder following the bloodbath at the Thusnelda-von-Saldern-Haus facility in Potsdam, Brandenburg, in April.

The victims, two women and two men aged between 31 and 56, were found dead in their rooms after being stabbed with a knife, with police saying they had been subjected to “intense, extreme violence”.

Ines Andrea R. is also accused of trying to kill two further residents and of seriously injuring another, a woman aged 43.

She was detained immediately after the incident and placed in urgent psychiatric care due to what prosecutors described as “pertinent evidence” of severe mental illness.

Around 100 police officers were involved in recovering evidence at the scene.

READ ALSO: Women in custody over killings at Potsdam disabled home

The Thusnelda-von-Saldern-Haus, run by the Lutheran Church’s social welfare service, specialises in helping those with physical and mental disabilities, including blind, deaf and severely autistic patients.

It offers live-in care as well as schools and workshops.

Around 65 people live at the residence, which employs more than 80 people.

Germany has seen a number of high-profile murder cases from care facilities.

In the most prominent trial, nurse Niels Högel was sentenced in 2019 to life in prison for murdering 85 patients in his care.

READ ALSO: Missed chances: How Germany’s killer nurse got away with 85 murders

Högel, believed to be Germany’s most prolific serial killer, murdered patients with lethal injections between 2000 and 2005, before he was eventually caught in the act.

Last year, a Polish healthcare worker was sentenced to life in prison in Munich for killing at least three people with insulin.