‘Sledgehammer blow’: Shock as Germany scales back Love Parade disaster trial

A German court Wednesday scaled back a marathon trial over the deaths of 21 young people in a stampede at a techno music festival, sparking anger from bereaved relatives.

'Sledgehammer blow': Shock as Germany scales back Love Parade disaster trial
The scene of the tragedy. Photo: DPA

The negligent homicide case, being held in Düsseldorf, was terminated for seven of the 10 defendants, leaving only three in the dock who have insisted they want to clear their names.

For the father of one victim, the news was a “sledgehammer blow,” said his lawyer Rainer Dietz, who added that “it seems our system can't handle this complex case”.

SEE ALSO: July 24th 2010: The day the music stopped

Eight men and 13 women were crushed, trampled to death or suffocated and 650 more injured in the 2010 crowd panic around a pedestrian tunnel at the festival in the city of Duisburg.

After years of delays, the court in late 2017 put on trial four festival organizers and six city officials on charges of negligent homicide and causing bodily harm.

Prosecutors accused them of “serious errors in planning and authorizing” the festival at a former rail freight yard in the Rhine river city.

However, the court has now suspended the trial against seven of the 10 accused, arguing that since many people shared culpability, the individual level of guilt was difficult to assess.

SEE ALSO: Techno festival organizers on trial in Düsseldorf over 21 deaths during stampede

 'Shocked, speechless'

The court also argued it would not be able to hear the more than 500 witnesses still scheduled to testify before a 10-year statute of limitations expires in July 2020.

Onlookers lay flowers at the scene of the disaster in 2011. Photo: DPA

It decided to order punitive payments of ´€10,000 each for three of the defendants, all former staff of event organizer Lopavent.

The court would have terminated the entire case, but the three accused who face fines insisted the trial continues so they can clear their names.

Victim's family lawyer Dietz was among many who voiced their disbelief, telling AFP that his client was “shocked” and left “speechless”.

Another victim's lawyer, Julius Reiter, said that, while the trial had brought some clarity on how the disaster unfolded, “the hope that those responsible will be tried is dead”.

'Never again'

The Love Parade started as an underground event in the former West Berlin in 1989, the year the Wall fell, before moving to other German cities, at times drawing over a million revellers.

The disaster victims were aged between 17 and 38 and came from Germany as well as Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

The scale of the trial and the huge public interest forced court officials to move the proceedings to a convention hall in Düsseldorf.

The tragedy led festival organizers to declare that the Love Parade would never be held again “out of respect for the victims”.

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French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.