Story by: Aleksandra Stefanova, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
Picture credit: CEN
Over 30 people are on trial for the systematic abuse of residents at an asylum centre after a photo of a security guard standing on a restrained resident’s neck was leaked.A major trial with over 30 defendants being charged with deprivation of liberty, coercion and grievous bodily harm has begun in Siegen in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday.Local media have called it one of the largest legal cases in post-war German history.
Over 30 security guards from private security company SKI and employees of the asylum centre “European Homecare” in Burbach in North Rhine-Westphalia were allegedly involved in the systematic abuse, humiliation and beating of residents between late 2013 and September 2014.
A total of 54 charges have been pressed against the defendants.
According to the 155-page indictment, residents were taken to a so-called “problem room,” which was room number 123, if they were trouble in the eyes of the guards.
In there, they were allegedly repeatedly hit in the head, stomach and ribs and sprayed in the eyes with pepper spray. To keep them inside, the defendants allegedly removed the door handle and kept the residents in the room for up to three days without allowing them to use the toilet.
A video filmed by an alleged accomplice was reportedly leaked to a journalist who then reported the case to police.
A photo of one guard with his foot on the neck of a resident lying on the floor with his hands restrained also emerged at the time.
A defendant identified only as Steven K., 33, claimed the guards were sometimes outnumbered six to 1,000 by the residents.
He said the guards were “simply left” to themselves and were “completely overwhelmed”.
According to him, even police deployed with up to 30 squad cars would decide to wait for back-up when called for incidents.
Lawyer Andreas Trode, representing one of the victims, saw the case as clear cut: “This was an inhumane system, the guards abused their supposed power and established an arbitrary and brutal punishment system.”
Defence lawyer Christopher Posch said it remains to be seen which allegations could be proved and that the responsibility also has to be clarified as “all of that happened under the supervision of the authorities”.
Another trial against a further eight defendants, including European Homecare’s manager at the time, identified only as Ricardo S., is to take place separately due to the defendants partially confessing or not being able to attend the current trial due to illness.