Did Brandenburg cops try to frame this photographer?
A photographer faced charges of obstruction and resisting arrest after a scuffle while covering an arrest. Video from his camera made suspects out of his supposed victims.
Brandenburg/Havel-Brandenburg’s state parliament Wednesday will review an alleged case of police abuse against a journalist after the victim’s footage revealed a different clash with police than the officers presented in court.
Police in the state surrounding Berlin are investigating two officers for perjury and have launched disciplinary procedures. Prosecutors are also reviewing the footage to determine whether charges of assault and obstruction of justice can be lodged against the officers.
Last September, photojournalist Julian Stähle was covering the arrest of a sexual assault suspect in a wooded area near Treuenbrietzen south of Potsdam. Officers claimed he broke through a police barricade and bumped an officer with his lens as he tried to film the elite SEK team attempting the arrest.
When an officer then turned to face Stähle, the journalist stumbled and fell, the policeman, as well as a colleague, testified in court in mid-August. Stähle was hurt and his camera demolished during his subsequent arrest for obstruction and resisting arrest.
He took five weeks of sick leave because of injuries to his neck and arm.
But his attorney, Seastian Wendt, waited until after the officers had testified to show the video that was saved on Stähle’s unscathed storage card.
"They wanted to force my conviction," Stähle told the Berliner Zeitung.
The relevant 70-second recording, seen by Berliner Zeitung, shows the photographer standing about three metres from the police cordon in a position he tells an officer the police spokesperson had assigned him.
The discussion is heated, as if the duo had argued prior to the recording.
“I’m going to press charges. You threatened me,” Stähle says.
“Looking forward to it,” the officer counters. There’s a brief pause and then Stähle asks for the policeman’s name but receives no answer.
"I want your name. You must know what your name or your badge number is," Stähle says. The journalist is then grabbed and forced to the ground.
"Am I not speaking German?” the officer yells. “I won't be insulted, dude!" The sound of the photographer choking and having difficulty breathing can be heard. Three other policemen rush over but no one tries to stop the officer.
An apology would be nice
Stähle didn’t release the footage before because he didn’t want the officers to change their stories.
"We wanted to give the authorities the opportunity to investigate objectively," attorney Wendt said.
The mood in court changed quickly after the video was shown. A testifying officer collapsed on the witness stand and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance. The photographer was acquitted.
In addition to the assault and obstruction of justice charges, Wendt said other criminal offences such as coercion, persecution and false arrest will be added. Since police officers initially refused to call an ambulance for the injured 26-year-old, failure to provide assistance could also be added, the lawyer said.
“Media coverage gave the necessary urgency to the case. I just want everything to be fully investigated. And if I had one wish, it would be for an apology – perhaps from the president of the police,” Stähler said.