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Court Appeal

DPA news agency (ls)
December 12, 2008

Lawyers alleging police racism have filed appeals in Germany against the acquittal of two officers accused of letting a black man burn to death in a cell. The judge on the case has defended his ruling.

German police officers
A judge said there wasn't enough evidence to bring charges against the policeImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Oury Jalloh, 23, who had been arrested for molesting women while drunk, was killed by the fire when his mattress caught fire in the cell in Rosslau, 100 kilometers south-west of Berlin, two years ago.

Angry German militants accused police of lying and screamed "Liar!" at Judge Manfred Steinhoff when he said there was not enough evidence to convict the officers. Both the prosecutor and lawyers representing the Jalloh family in Sierra Leone filed appeals in federal court on legal grounds, a court spokesman in Rosslau said on Thursday, Dec. 11.

In a statement to the parliament of Saxony-Anhalt, the state's premier Wolfgang Boehmer said, "My government understands the outrage of the dead man's family and friends at the lack of a finding over this incident.

"But we ask for their understanding that the discovery of the truth and administration of justice can only be done by the rules of law by an independent judiciary."

He also indirectly referred to claims by anti-racist groups that other police may have lied to protect the two officers of the watch in the police station.

"This government expects its public servants, and all its other employees, to contribute to establishing the truth and to help defend this state from harm," he said.

Ugly incident not the first

Jalloh, an immigrant who had applied for German political asylum, died from the heat of the flames as he lay in the cell, bound hand and foot. Police say the flames came from his own cigarette lighter.

A jail cell
The man was trapped in his jail cell during the fireImage: Flickr/Still Burning

The court was told the station commander, now 48, turned off a smoke alarm and went on working. Police said Jalloh was left in handcuffs and leg restraints on January 7, 2005 because he was drunk and violent to officers.

The 22-month trial was held in a part of former East Germany where several ugly racist incidents have occurred in the past. An Oury Jalloh Memorial Committee was set up to press charges and pay the lawyers.

Judge Steinhoff went outside the court on Monday evening to try to discuss the verdict with the inflamed demonstrators on the street, but they verbally abused him.

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