In the hours after the Berlin attack, police apprehended a Pakistani refugee. He turned out to be the wrong man. He has now spoken about his treatment and his fears of how the mix-up will affect his life.
German authorities helped 24-year-old Naveed B. stay out of sight after his release last week, fearing that his life might be in danger. They told him not to return to the refugee shelter.
Naveed B. gave details about the incident in an interview with the British Guardian newspaper on Friday.
The refugee was detained on the night of the deadly December 19 attacks in Berlin. At the time, witnesses claimed to have followed him from the scene, but it later turned out they did not have an uninterrupted view of the suspect.
He says he was leaving a friend's house and trying to cross the street when he was confronted by a police car. He was detained and taken to a police station, and later blindfolded and taken to another location. The police officers were "digging the heels of their shoes into my feet," and one of the men "putting great pressure on my neck with his hand," he told the newspaper.
Later, the officers undressed him and took photos. "When I resisted, they started slapping me," Naveed added.
Germany is giving us 'safety'
When asked about the rampage on the Christmas market, and the truck used to kill 12 people, he told the authorities he did not know how to drive.
"I told them there's death and war in my country; that's why I ran away to seek help," the Guardian quoted him as saying. "You in Germany are providing us with food, medicine and safety. If you find I was doing these things to your country, you should not give me an easy death, you should cut me up slowly."
The Pakistani-born refugee told the police he was politically active in his home region of Balochistan, troubled by long-running separatist insurgency and Pakistani crackdowns.
"Most of the people I worked with have been arrested and killed. I knew it was a matter of time before they came for me. That's the reason I came to Germany," he said in the Guardian interview.
Life under threat
Naveed also reported sleeping on a bed with no mattress with his hands bound behind his back. The following day, the police cleared him of suspicion and released him. However, they warned him not to return to the migrant shelter where he previously stayed.
The authorities told him that his life might be in danger from the people who still believed he played the role in the attack, including both German right-wing extremists and Pakistani nationals. He was taken to a hotel and told to contact the police every time he goes outside.
The police later started a Europe-wide manhunt for the 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri, finding his wallet in the cab of the truck. The suspect was killed after trying to pull a gun on Italian police officers last week.
Waiting for asylum
He also told the paper that his family was contacted by security services in Pakistan, and that they have been receiving threatening phone calls.
"Before the attack for which I was arrested, no one in Balochistan knew I had disappeared," he told the paper. "Now they all know I fled to Germany, fearful of my life, and that I am claiming asylum here. It leaves my family very vulnerable and there's nothing I can do to protect them."
Naveed's asylum application is currently being examined by the German authorities.
dj/kms (dpa, AFP)