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Dortmund team-bus bomber given 14-year jail sentence

A German man who launched a shrapnel bomb attack on the team bus of football club Borussia Dortmund last year, wounding two people, has been given a 14 year jail sentence.

Dortmund team-bus bomber given 14-year jail sentence
Sergej Wenergold in court last week. Photo: DPA
A court in Dortmund found Sergej Wenergold, 29, guilty of 28 counts of attempted murder after he detonated three explosive devices while the team bus was en route to the stadium for a Champions League game last year.

After an 11-month trial, the trained electrician, who was born in Russia, was also found guilty of causing an explosion and two counts of causing serious injury after the blasts wounded Spanish defender Marc Bartra and a police officer.

SEE ALSO: Prosecutors demand life for Dortmund bus bomber

Wenergold had stayed in the same hotel as the team when he launched the attack on April 11th, 2017 as the bus was heading for a Champions' League match against Monaco.

He had hidden in a hedge three explosive devices, each of which contained up to a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of a hydrogen peroxide mixture and about 65 cigarette-sized metal bolts.

Wenergold had left letters suggesting an Islamist terrorist motive at the scene, sparking initial alarm about a possible jihadist attack.

Market gamble

Wenergold's defence lawyer Carl Heydenreich said his client had hoped to spark panic and terror, not to wound or kill people, and asked for lenient punishment well below 10 years' prison.

Heydenreich blamed the defendant's “narcissistic personality” and told the court Wenergold had wanted to “commit the perfect crime to please his ego — he wanted the gains without doing harm”.

Prosecutors called this claim “nonsense” and argued that the defendant had aimed to kill as many players as possible.   

A physics expert testified in September that Wenergold could not have controlled the explosive power of the blasts, saying that “a layman cannot control such bombs”.

Wenergold had bought put options and contracts worth some €26,000 euros — essentially a bet on the club's share price falling — and had hoped to gain half a million euros, said prosecutors.

SEE ALSO: Dortmund bomb attack 'changed my life', footballer tells court

The defendant reportedly drew attention to himself at the hotel, first by insisting on a window room facing the front and then, in the chaos after the blasts, by calmly walking into its restaurant to order a steak.

Police arrested Wenergold 10 days after the attack.

Several players of Borussia Dortmund, the current Bundesliga leaders, gave emotional testimony during the trial about the trauma they suffered.

A day after the attack, Dortmund played their postponed game against Monaco and lost, prompting then coach Thomas Tuchel to rail against UEFA for not giving the players time to come to terms with their fear before returning to the pitch.

Wenergold, who confessed to the attack in January, voiced his regret last week when he told the court: “I would like to apologize to everybody.”

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TRAVEL

Where in France can you travel on public transport for free?

An increasing number of French local authorities are offering free public transport, in a bid to cut pollution and stimulate local economies - here are some of the places experimenting with letting people travel for free.

Where in France can you travel on public transport for free?
Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Dunkirk

On September 1st 2018, Dunkirk became the largest European urban agglomeration to have an entirely free bus network, serving around 200,000 inhabitants.

Whether you live in Dunkirk or are just visiting, you can travel across the city for free all week long with no need for a ticket or pass.

Mayor Patrice Vergriete first promised free public transport when he was elected to the position in 2014, but “we didn’t want to introduce the measure straight away, because the bus network would not have been able to absorb the effects,” Didier Hubert of the Dunkirk transport authority told The Local.

Instead, the council focused first on improving the service, with extended routes, services every 10 minutes, and buses which trigger traffic lights to turn green. 

According to a report published in September 2019, public transport use had increased by 88 percent since 2017.

Jean-François Montagne, vice-president of the Dunkirk Urban Community in charge of ecological transition said: “If you tell your fellow citizens, ‘Take the bus, it’s good for the planet,’ it won’t work. However, if you say, ‘Take the bus, it’s free, and also it’s good for the planet,’ it works.”

Political leaders from across France, including Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, have visited the coastal city to learn from its example.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on her visit to Dunkirk. Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

While Montagne accepts that the Dunkirk model is not necessarily transferable – even before it became free, ticket sales only accounted for 10 percent of the transportation system’s funding, a much smaller proportion than in larger cities – he does believe others will follow. “I really think that in 10 years, every city will have made public transport free.

“They don’t know it yet, but I’m convinced of it.”

READ ALSO French train operator SNCF unveils cheaper fares to tempt customers back

Calais

25 miles up the coast from Dunkirk, another town has taken the plunge. Bus travel in Calais has been free since January 2020. This led to a 70 percent increase in passengers in the first months of the year, before the disruption caused by the pandemic, according to La Voix du Nord.

As in Dunkirk, the measure applies to all passengers; you do not need to show a ticket or proof of residency.

Mayor Natacha Bouchart, of the centre-right Les Républicains party, first announced the measure in November 2018, “in response to the concerns of the ‘yellow vests’ in Calais,” as reported by local newspaper Nord Littoral.

Montpellier’s beautifully decorated trams are free at the weekends for residents. Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Montpellier

Other cities have opted for a gradual approach. In September 2020, Montpellier in south east France made its bus and tram network free for residents on weekends.

The city plans to offer free transportation during the week for resident under-18s and over-65s from September 2021, before making the network entirely free for all residents in 2023.

The choice to exclude visitors from the programme was a political one, according to Julie Frêche, vice-president for transport and mobility at the Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole.

“You need to be a resident to benefit from the measure, to show that, yes, we pay taxes, but these taxes go towards financing ambitious public policies,” she told The Local.

Since the measure was introduced, 80,000 free weekend passes have already been downloaded, and weekend public transport usage has increased by 7 percent despite the effects of the pandemic.

Frêche also believes public transport can help to kickstart the post-lockdown economy.

“We did a study which says that 57 percent of those who made a journey at the weekend, did so because it was free,” she said.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about taking the train in France

Nantes

On April 24th, the northern French town of Nantes joined Montpellier in offering free travel on weekends.

In Nantes, however, this applies not just to locals, but to visitors as well. The price of an unlimited travel pass has also fallen by 20 percent.

Nancy

In December 2020, the eastern city of Nancy also made public transport free on weekends.

No tickets are needed, meaning anybody can ride for free, residents and tourists alike. This applies to the bus and tram networks, as well as the ‘Citadines’, two lines of mini, electric shuttle buses which can be used for short journeys between different points in the centre of town.

The decision not to limit the offer to residents is an attempt to encourage people who live outside of the city to make the journey into town, according to Patrick Hatzig, vice-president in charge of transport at the Grand Nancy local authority.

“Our original intention was to make public transport attractive again, at a moment when Covid was leading to a fall in passenger numbers,” Hatzig told The Local.

“If it wasn’t for Covid, we would have done it anyway, but that only strengthened our determination. Covid is also an economic crisis, so helping families to come to the city centre and spend money, that has revitalised the economy.”

The council also has plans to develop 200 kilometres of new cycle lanes, and to create faster routes with buses which have priority at traffic lights. “We can only achieve all of that if we have fewer cars in town,” Hatzig said.

Paris

Residents of the greater Paris Île-de-France region who are under 18 are eligible for a full reimbursement of their monthly transport card. In addition, residents aged 14-18 can receive a reimbursement for the Vélib’ bicycle rental scheme.

The policy was introduced ahead of the 2020-21 school year.

During an interview with French media following the creation of the reimbursement scheme, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo hinted that public transportation in the city could become free for everyone by 2026. 

Lyon

In January, France’s third largest city – which has a Green Party mayor – made public transport free for certain residents. The scheme was designed to benefit 130,000 people in the greater Lyon area who are on low incomes or in vulnerable situations.

“The development of public transport is the most efficient method of reducing geographical and social inequalities,” Bruno Bernard, the Green president of the Grand Lyon urban area, said at the time.

The decision to target the least well-off sections of the population reflects a debate which is ongoing in a number of cities, including Nancy: whether free public transport should be universal, or whether resources are best directed towards those who would benefit the most.

One thing seems certain: we are going to see more French cities implement similar policies in the years to come. Strasbourg will add its name to the list in September, when it implements free travel for under-18s.

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