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Berlin attack victims could claim millions

January 13, 2017

A lawyer representing families of some victims of Berlin's Christmas market attack has claimed his clients may sue the government for hundreds of millions of euros. The attack killed 12 people and injured nearly 50 more.

Deutschland Berlin Trauer nach Anschlag auf Breitscheidplatz
Image: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Berlin-based lawyer Andreas Schulz said on Friday the large compensation claim was being considered because of the weak security arrangements that were in place at the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz on December 19.

He told the German newspaper "Der Tagesspiegel" that he was representing several of the victims and their families, and suggested that the legal action may involve claims of hundreds of millions of euros.

Schulz has already submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to several city and federal government authorities, asking whether they were aware of a heightened terror risk at Christmas markets in Germany, the paper reported. 

Warnings ignored?

He pointed to a US warning to its citizens of the threat of an attack in Europe, especially over Christmas. Schulz said the United States would have also likely informed Germany's intelligence agencies.

Six days before Christmas, a truck plowed into revelers at the Berlin Christmas market killing a dozen people and injuring around 50 others in an attack claimed by the "Islamic State" (IS) armed group. Authorities believe 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri was behind the wheel. After several days on the run, he was killed in a shoot-out with police in Milan, Italy.

Police have praised the truck's automatic braking system, which was activated as the vehicle careered into the market stalls, saying it prevented a greater loss of life.

But Schulz said he wanted to establish whether concrete barriers would have saved even more people and reduced the number of injuries.

Deutschland Sicherheitsmaßnahmen Weihnachtmarkt am Breitscheidplatz
Concrete barriers were installed after the attackImage: Reuters/H. Hanschke

"Why were the concrete pillars around the Christmas market at the Breitscheidplatz only put up after the attack and not before? After the Nice attack, it would have been obvious to make this a safety requirement for Christmas markets," he told "Der Tagesspiegel."

Relatives' anxiety

The Berlin-based paper also published an interview on Friday with a relative of a man who was injured in the attack, who insisted that no one wanted to enrich themselves from the compensation claim.

"But those who live with serious disabilities need adequate compensation. And if that is not paid, I would file a complaint," Petra K. told the paper.

K.'s longtime partner was left in a coma for several days after the rampage, still has severe head injuries and may need expensive rehabilitation.

"So far, the authorities have helped quickly and in a non-bureaucratic way," she said.

Eleven of those injured in the Berlin attack remain in intensive care, authorities have said.

Building a case

German authorities have faced criticism not only over lax security at Christmas markets but also for the bungled handling of Amri, who had been tracked by security services and had been due for deportation.

The subsequent manhunt was also widely denounced after he traveled through at least three European countries before being killed by Italian police on December 23.

On Thursday, Germany's justice minister admitted that mistakes were made in handling events surrounding the terrorist assault.

"After what has happened and what we have learned since, it is not possible for anyone to sit down and say that no mistakes were made," Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the "Maybrit Illner" talk show on Thursday.

mm/sms (dpa, Der Tagesspiegel)