Love Parade stampede cases are struck out

Relatives of 21 people killed are outraged after judge says there is not enough evidence

Police officers lift  a woman from the crowd   at the Love Parade  in  Duisburg, Germany,  on July 24th, 2010. A stampede killed 21 people after mass panic broke out at  the techno music festival. Photograph:   Reuters

Police officers lift a woman from the crowd at the Love Parade in Duisburg, Germany, on July 24th, 2010. A stampede killed 21 people after mass panic broke out at the techno music festival. Photograph: Reuters

 

Almost nine years on, relatives of the 21 people killed in Germany’s Love Parade stampede have expressed outrage after court proceedings against seven defendants were struck out on Tuesday.

The decision came after the presiding judge said there was not enough evidence to prove any individual guilty of involuntary manslaughter or bodily harm.

“My God, if only they had taken care, our children would still be alive, and didn’t do that,” said Klaus-Peter Mogendorf, who lost his daughter Eike in the crush.

In July 2010, the Love Parade techno music party, originally staged in Berlin, was moved by its new organiser to the western city of Duisburg. During a mass panic, 21 people died in a narrow entrance to the party site and more than 650 were injured.

It was only in December 2017 that 10 defendants went on trial: six Duisburg city workers and four employees of organiser Lopavent. They faced charges of planning failures, failure to monitor security properly and negligent homicide.

While seven defendants were struck out, proceedings against three others, all Lopavent employees, will continue after they declined to settle for €10,000 payments each.

Presiding judge Mario Plein defended his decision to end the case against seven defendants, and dismissed concerns over the statute of limitations, which expire in July of next year.“I have no concern that the [remaining] cases will lapse,” he said.

‘Individual guilt’

Duisburg mayor Sören Link said the complicated case showed the “difficulty in finding individual guilt” for the tragedy. “I also understand if relatives of victims and those who were injured and traumatised are disappointed.”

Defence lawyers were scathing of the case, and welcomed the decision to strike out all charges against their clients. One lawyer, Kerstin Stirner, said it was clear from the start that this was a “show trial” at the cost of low-level employees.

Defence lawyers and joint plaintiffs for families have criticised the local state prosecutor for failing to build cases against senior city planners or organisers.

“They already let the big ones walk,” said Julius Reiter, a lawyer for one family. “It’s very difficult for [families] to accept.”

Duisburg’s former mayor Adolf Sauerland appeared at the trial, but only as a witness. He said he was “not active in the permit approval process”, and thus not responsible for the event in a disused rail cargo station with just one entrance and exit.

Judge Mario Plein criticised Mr Sauerland’s professed ignorance, saying: “We’re not talking about a flea market here...we’re talking about the Love Parade.”

After refusing to take political responsibility for the tragedy, Mr Sauerland was voted out of office after a referendum in 2012.

Convention hall

The trial was one of the largest in Germany’s post-war history, with 70 lawyers representing defendants and 38 representing joint plaintiffs, mainly relatives of those killed.

Huge public and media interest saw the case moved from Duisburg regional court to a 500-seater convention hall in nearby Düsseldorf, where the case continues against the three remaining defendants.