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Prosecutors seek four years for German rail crash dispatcher

Prosecutors have urged a four-year jail term for the man whose alleged negligence led to a head-on train crash. Twelve people were killed when two commuter trains collided near the town of Bad Aibling in February.

Identified only as Michael P., the train dispatcher is on trial in the Bavarian town of Traunstein on 12 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 89 counts of bodily harm, following a train crash on February 9.

Two commuter trains carrying 150 people collided just before 7 a.m. local time (06:00 UTC) in one of Germany's worst train crashes in decades. 

Twelve people were killed and 85 others were injured, dozens of them seriously.

Chief prosecutor Juergen Branz called for a four-year jail sentence, while the defense requested that the term be limited to two-and-a-half years, saying their client had apologized and had acted in panic and out of fear.

The maximum sentence under German law is five years.

The dispatcher's lawyers also called for single-track rail routes to be made safer.

Cell phone games

Defendant Michael P

Michael P. has admitted misconduct in the case

Branz told the court on Friday the defendant had made a series of errors, including playing a game on his cellphone shortly before the crash.

Branz said that Michael P. had engaged in other "thoughtless behaviour" on the morning of the crash.

He was cited by public broadcaster "Bayerischer Rundfunk" as telling the court that the drivers of the trains had behaved in a normal manner and that the trains were of the latest design.

An automatic braking system that usually prevents head-on collisions was apparently disabled beforehand, the court heard.

On Thursday, the court was told that a technical gadget that was missing from the signal tower in question could also have prevented the crash.

Misconduct confessed

At the opening of the trial last month, the 40-year-old admitted to misconduct, by setting off a wrong signal and then by dialing a wrong number to place an emergency call placed to the train drivers.

In a statement to the court, P. addressed the family members of the train crash victims, more than 20 of whom are participating in the trial as joint plaintiffs.

"I know that I cannot undo what has happened, even if I wish I could," he told them.

A verdict is expected on Monday.

Watch video 02:23

Train crash: human error could be to blame

mm/gsw (AFP, dpa)

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