Iraqi refugee abused by German far-right sympathizers found dead week before trial

Published 21.04.2017 13:15
Updated 21.04.2017 13:37

An Iraqi refugee who in May 2016 had been mistreated by a self-assigned militia and was tied to a tree with cable ties in a village of Germany's Saxony, was found dead Monday. A huntsman reportedly discovered his already decomposed corpse in a forested area close to Dresden; the police have confirmed the identity of the deceased.

The case of abuse against the 21-year-old man had caught media attention in May 2016, when a video started circulating in far-righ groups showing an argument erupting at a local supermarket, which ended with four members of the militia dragging the man outside and tying him to a tree before calling the police. The refugee had suffered from psychiatric problems and had undergone occasional treatment at a hospital specialized in mental health. The argument erupted when the man returned to the supermarket with a phone-card he had bought from them and which he could not set to work. Communication problems due to language barriers contributed to the development of the quarrel, reports said.

At least two of the men of those who detained the refugee were locally known as strong opponents of refugee centers close to their own community. One of them was identified as a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) named Detlef Oelsner, who admitted to participating but denied the existence of a self-defense militia. He defended his actions by portraying them as expression of "civil courage" and later on gave an interview to a well-known right-wing German newspaper about the incident. The Chief Constable of Görlitz, a town located close by, had originally justified the actions by the four men by stating that the asylum seeker had seemed very agitated and that it had thus been sensible to detain him.

The four members of the militia were charged with "deprivation of liberty" and are expected to appear in court in a process which starts Monday. They face a prison term of up to two years or a financial penalty. According to the investigators, the body showed no traces of a violent death, but the homicide division launched an investigation. The Iraqi refugee had gone missing in January and could not be summoned to court as a witness. Reports suggest that he may have frozen to death.

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