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Germany: Migrant's 'bones were broken' before jail death

October 29, 2019

A new medical report into the death of asylum-seeker Oury Jalloh while in detention suggests he sustained significant injuries before his burnt body was found in a German holding cell in 2005.

Rally in January alleging police violence in the case of Oury Jalloh
Rally in January alleging police violence in the case of Oury JallohImage: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Schmidt

A new medical report into the 2005 death of asylum-seeker Oury Jalloh found that his body sustained bone fractures before he was found burnt in a German jail cell. 

Jalloh was a migrant from Sierra Leone whose charred body was found with the hands bound to a bed in the eastern German city of Dessau.

Police at the time claimed that Jalloh had killed himself by igniting his mattress with a lighter in his cell, where fire alarms failed to operate properly. Following a national and international outcry, several inconclusive investigations were launched.

In October, medical professionals at Goethe University in Frankfurt, commissioned by Jalloh's family and supporters, examined images of the corpse and concluded that his body sustained significant violence before the body burned. The radiological report, however, could not establish whether it was the cause of his death.

The report said that in addition to a fracture of the nose — which was already known — there were fractures to his septum, a rib and the base of his skull. 

Doctors said that it was extremely unlikely that Jalloh could have inflicted these injuries on himself with his hands bound, or that accidental injury, such as a fall, could have caused the damage.

Read more: Ten years on, still seeking answers to Oury Jalloh's death

The brother of dead asylum-seeker Oury Jalloh
The brother of dead asylum-seeker Oury Jalloh Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen

Injuries inflicted 'hours before death'

Scientists used forensic radiological technology to pinpoint the nature of the injuries. The injuries were described as "clearly occurring" shortly before Jalloh's death. To what extent they contributed to his death is unclear.

The Oury Jalloh Initiative has long campaigned for an investigation into alleged police violence it believes was the cause of Jalloh's death. In a tweet, the group said the new evidence indicated that Jalloh was "possibly already dead in his cell" when the fire broke out.

Earlier in October, a regional court in Naumburg in the state of Saxony-Anhalt dismissed this evidence as inadmissible in a fresh lawsuit brought by the initiative.

ed/stb (dpa, epd)

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