The police in Germany are still investigating the attack on a senator, Ike Ekweremadu, by suspected members of a separatist group, IPOB, police chief Robert Sandmann has said.
Mr Sandmann, First Chief Commissioner of Police, spoke on Friday in an exclusive interview with freelance journalist Ruona Meyer, at the police headquarters, Mittelfranken, Germany.
Ms Meyer sent details of the interview to PREMIUM TIMES.
RM: I had an interview with Herr Seebauer shortly after the incident involving Nigerian Senator Ike Ekweremadu in Nürnberg. What has changed since then, if at all anything has changed? Can you give us a full story?
Sandmann: The cultural festival of the Nigerian association was duly registered and was known to the police since the 12th of June. As usual for such events, the police contacted the organisers before the event happened to clarify aspects of security and safety. The organisers pointed out a possible, (somewhat) abstract endangerment, which in the course of further police investigation, could not be specifically confirmed, but independently, Police measures were put in place for the event. Unfortunately, we tried, but the time of the arrival of the Guest Speakers could not be found out. At the beginning and during the event, the police contacted the organisers two times. Until this point in time, there were no reports from the organisers of disturbances or real and present threats of danger. Immediately after the last contact, the incident occurred. With the arrival of the invited speaker, senator – what happened was that a group of visitors to the festival expressed strong displeasure towards him. He was prevented from entering the festival building. Because of the very heated, emotional situation, the senator decided to leave the festival. During all this, several festival visitors surrounded his car, and eggs were thrown at the car. Becoming aware of this situation, the police immediately and initiated measures to protect the senator.
By using the police car as a blockade, those pursuing the car were then separated from the senator. Numerous other police units, called as reinforcement, could then calm down the situation. They handed several expulsion notices to leave the area and took down the identity of eight people.
In the meantime, several police units escorted the senator to the hotel, for his protection, as well as escorting him and protecting him until he had left the city borders.
RM: So, can you tell us the BundesPolizei’s position on what happened, and what the current situation is?
Sandmann: Immediately after the incident, on Saturday afternoon, the police initiated all necessary measures for punitive action. Furthermore, already on Sunday morning, an experienced investigator from the department of politically-motivated crimes took over, for further investigations.
RM: Okay. So Nigerians who saw the videos from the incident, they want to know – is there an investigation going on? And would you like to share any information about the investigation, because we saw some reports on the Süddeutsche Zeitung?
Sandmann: Yes. On Monday, the prosecutor’s office was informed; they subpoenaed the investigation file for the next day, and then decided their next steps. Witnesses were also heard, and also the available video material was secured and investigated. Through this, already, four suspects were identified and they are now being investigated for coercion. Furthermore, the criminal police is tasked with identifying more suspects and prove their participation based on the available evidence.
RM: Okay. As a German citizen myself, I know there is a law in our country protecting the rights of anybody to protest. But many Nigerians, who have been seeing these images, the videos, they say Senator Ekweremadu was being dragged, pushed and with eggs, that is Eier, thrown all over the place… And as you say, he had to be escorted to his hotel. So my question is this: what is Germany’s official stand on this issue? Are you going to still call this a protest? Do you still call this a protest, or are you revising your position based on new information? What is the current position of German authorities in this case?
Sandmann: The Mittelfranken Police regrets that this incident happened and is relieved that nobody got injured. It is right that the police regularly acts during such events for the protection of the participants. If borders are crossed regarding what is permissible, or even crimes are committed, then investigations like as happened with the senator on Saturday will be initiated.
RM: I read in the German newspapers here that the Polizeilicher Staatschutz is now involved in this case. As far as I know, this department covers politically-motivated crime. Why are they involved in this investigation? Do you consider this a politically-motivated crime?
Sandmann: Within the Mittelfrank Police, responsibilities are organised in such a way that where clues may indicate political motivations in an incident/crime, then the special department for politically-motivated crimes always takes over the investigation. Also in the prosecutor’s office, a special department is involved in such investigations.
RM: Can we please have a sense of what the Nigerian community in Nürnberg is feeling, As far as you know, are they cooperating with the investigation, are they happy or not?
Sandmann: Please understand that it is not possible for the police to make an assessment of the feelings of the Nigerian fellow citizens. Independently, from this, I can assure you, that citizenship of those affected does not play any role in the execution of our tasks
RM: I don’t know if you are aware, but Nigerians are planning more protests to interrupt events – do you have any statements – that’s some Nigerians, not all Nigerians. They plan to have future disruptions of events. Do you have any statements for future protesters who may be planning to interrupt Nigerian events or events organised by Nigerian communities or embassies in Germany? What is your statement to them?
Sandmann: Generally, I can say that the free expression of your opinion is guaranteed in Germany, by our constitution. This right, of course, has its limits, where the behaviour violates laws or the rights of others.
RM: Okay thank you, is there anything else you would like to add?
Sandmann: No, from the view of the police, that is everything, and how the facts are represented at the moment.
RM: Thank you very much.
Sandmann: With pleasure.