Europe

Syrian arson victim treated as suspect by German police

Hussam Y. barely survived arson attack on his home, police and prosecutors failed to consider xenophobic motive for attack

Ayhan Şimşek   | 08.08.2019
Syrian arson victim treated as suspect by German police

BERLIN

A Syrian refugee who survived an arson attack on his home has filed a complaint against German police for their failure to consider xenophobic or far-right motives for the attack, but treating him as a suspect.

Sebastian Scharmer, a lawyer representing Hussam Y., told local media Wednesday that they filed disciplinary complaints both against the police and prosecutors, for ignoring possible xenophobic and racist motives for the attack.

“From the very beginning the police assumed that family problems were behind this arson attack. Investigations on a possible far-right motive had simply been omitted,” Scharmer told Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

Hussam Y.’s apartment in the central city of Magdeburg was targeted in a fire attack in February this year. The 36-year-old man, his wife and two children managed to escape unhurt.

Despite dozens of arson attacks carried out by far-right extremist in recent years targeting asylum centers, houses of refugees or migrants, Magdeburg police and prosecutors did not focus on a possible xenophobic motive for the attack, claiming that there was no strong evidence indicating far-right extremists could be behind this attack.

Scharmer said police should have contacted the country’s domestic intelligence agency after the arson attack, and chat groups of neo-Nazis should have been monitored to find out whether or not they involved in the assault.

According to a report by Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Magdeburg police failed to carry out a thorough investigation in the area after Hussam Y.’s apartment was targeted in an arson attack.

The police did not ask the employees of a nearby gas station whether they witnessed anything suspicious on that night, and whether the perpetrators had purchased gasoline from that station and used it to craft molotov cocktails.

Cell tower data and surveillance cameras in the area were not examined, although they could reveal details about the perpetrators, according to the report.

Germany’s police and security agencies have long been criticized for not properly investigating attacks against migrants and refugees, ignoring racist motives behind these attacks, and treating family members as suspects.

A shadowy neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), killed at least eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek worker, and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007, all apparently without arousing the suspicions of the German police or its intelligence services.

The German public first learned of the group’s existence in 2011, when two of its members reportedly died in a murder-suicide following an unsuccessful bank robbery.

Until 2011, Germany’s police and intelligence services ruled out any racial motive for the murders and instead treated immigrant families as suspects in the case and even harassed them for alleged connections with mafia groups and drug traffickers.

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