German police officer convicted of discrimination for asking Afghan migrant where he ‘really’ came from

The officer had pulled the man over for using his mobile phone while riding a motorbike and had sought to ascertain his country of origin during an identity check — a line of questioning ruled to be discriminatory

By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

A police officer in Germany has been convicted of racial discrimination for asking an Afghan migrant where he “really” came from after stopping him for talking on his mobile phone while riding a motorbike.

The Mitte District Court in Berlin ruled on April 15 that the officer’s line of questioning was discriminatory after pulling over the man during an incident dating back to July 2020.

A police report from the time stated that Syed N. and his girlfriend were pulled over for using their mobile phones while on the motorbike, an accusation denied by the couple.

The officer handed the man riding the motorbike a €50 fine which he reportedly refused to pay and became “short-tempered.”

During an identity check, the man provided a health insurance card. When asked where he was from, he replied, “Bochum.” The police officer then asked where he was “really” from, attempting to ascertain the man’s country of origin, which was Afghanistan.

Following the incident, the Afghan national filed a discrimination complaint with the local police force claiming he had been unfairly treated and taking issue with the line of questioning.

The resulting investigation by the ombudsman’s office found the officer’s questioning had a “discriminatory and harassing effect,” and in September 2021, the Berlin police offered a formal apology to the migrant and withdrew the €50 fine.

However, unsatisfied with this outcome, Syed N. sued the police officer in question for discrimination, a lawsuit that was successful.

The Berlin court ruled in favor of the man, judging the question constituted discrimination and ordered the police force to pay the man €750 in compensation.

Speaking to the Taz news outlet following the ruling, the man said, “It has become clear that, despite a complaint from the supervisory authority, the police do not perceive discrimination as such — as of today. There should be more awareness here.”

A police spokeswoman explained that “compensation offers were made several times” as part of the complaint and lawsuit process, but added this settlement proposal was withdrawn during the legal proceedings after the facts of the incident as understood by the police department “were different than those presented there by the plaintiff.”

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