Every year many people are dying by the racist policy of Fortress Europe. Deaths during deportations are accepted conscious. Marcus Omofuma is not an isolated case....
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last update: 25.03.2002
Court proceedings on 4 March 2002
Trial of the 3 Aliens Police officers ... or perhaps of Marcus Omofuma after all?
Report from the trial - Part 1
were granted the special privilege of being conducted into the courtroom
via the judges' room, without having to face the cameras waiting in the
Allegedly, Marcus Omofuma was hit by one of the airline staff, inspiring Rifaat to produce a simile: Were 2 adolescents in a park to grip a dachshund by its ear and tail and swing it round, the judge might conceivably box either adolescent's ears, but surely not hit the dachshund. This comparison is meant by Rifaat to suggest that Marcus Omofuma was not seen by third parties as the recipient of cruel treatment. He had his ears boxed because his behaviour had been so refractory. The blow allegedly proved that rather than Omofuma being the victim of cruel behaviour, his resistance constituted cruelty to the officers accompanying him. In addition, Omofuma's behaviour allegedly induced panic in a group of children on the same flight. A similar case occurring just 3 days before 1 May 1999 is allegedly documented, where a deportee created an uproar, screaming that he was being kidnapped and that he wanted to see the captain. After all, one could never be sure what might happen, with a group of 28 children between 10 and 14 years on board, whom Omofuma could have taken hostage, and planes could also be flown into the World Trade Center. In any case, Marcus Omofuma, by his intimidatory actions, had disrupted the flight schedule.
Moreover, only 2 of the 3 medical reports conclude that asphyxiation was the cause of death. The Austrian report by Prof. Reiter additionally considers heart disease to have been a possible cause. Internationally, only one method is thought to exist which permits an unambiguous diagnosis of asphyxiation. This blood gas method was allegedly not used in Sofia and subsequently was no longer feasible. In the defence's view, death by asphyxiation cannot therefore be assumed beyond reasonable doubt. "If 3 medical authorities cannot agree as to whether he suffocated, how could the police officers have recognised this?". If a risk to somebody's health was to be anticipated, the responsibility would certainly fall on the captain of the plane. The entire crew saw the state Marcus Omofuma was in, and they would have had to act accordingly if required.
1 May 1999
then gave rise to a fireworks of regulations and statistics, as well as
training courses. Mr Ofner's line of defence also draws on the Human Rights
Advisory Committee's report: This, he said, does condone so-called problem
deportations and describes the use of force as permissible in this context.
The reforms after 1 May 1999 should be considered steps in the right direction.
Michael Sika is quoted as saying that errors were necessary to identify
B. - "The professional"
B. himself had been injured once at Rome airport during a deportation, and he said that he had heard of a fierce struggle in Sofia between colleagues of his and a Black African who was being deported. The official reports, however, did not mention these risks and the coercive measures used. The judge's question, why in the face of these risks the officers did not complain and did not draw their superiors' attention to these intolerable conditions, remains unanswered. According to B., in any case, no instructions had been issued, not even implicitly, to omit the description of the actual practices from the reports. They just weren't reported. Nor had there been any instruction to go through with the deportation come what may.
B. then describes the course of events. The file did not mention any illnesses of Marcus Omofuma. A velcro tape restraint had been applied at the outset, as he had said he would resist. B. said that he had attempted to draw Marcus Omofuma into a conversation. This was his usual tactic to defuse the situation. It didn't work, though. Marcus Omofuma simply stared out through the car window. Until they reached the airport, he had stayed calm, however. At the airport he got out of the car to sort out the formalities with Mr Kostov from Balkan Air, who according to B. had gestured to indicate the option of sealing the deportee's mouth in the event of resistance. This was the procedure for every flight if somebody shouted. As soon as he turned round he saw the struggle in the vehicle. It took 7 officers in all to immobilise Marcus Omofuma who was fighting tooth and nail. After co-defendant K had shouted "Ouch, he bites", Marcus Omofuma's mouth was sealed, initially just with a single strip of sticking plaster across his cheek. Due to mouth movements, however, this strip of plaster had soon come loose, and a further layer of sticking plaster was therefore applied. Marcus Omofuma then braced himself so firmly within the car that some force was required to pull him from the VW bus and then carry him into the plane. At first, Marcus Omofuma was seated in the last row, but after he had been banging his head against the rear wall, he was moved to the last row but one.
Having given a detailed description of the restraining and gagging arrangements (several layers of adhesive tape over the mouth to the back of the head, prevention of chin movement by adhesive tape across the top of the head, hand and foot restraints, seat belt across the forearms resting in his lap, immobilisation of the head against the seat's headrest, immobilisation of the chest against the seat using adhesive tape, immobilisation of the tied-together legs by means of a velcro tape held by co-defendant K seated behind), he described this state as "uncomfortable, but not agonising". He emphasised a number of times that Marcus Omofuma, in the event of being in pain or a need to perform bodily functions "should just have said something". Against the objection, by the judge, that this would scarcely have been possible in his position, B. defended himself by claiming that, given his professional experience, he was able to distinguish the difference between "aggressive and imploring behaviour" from the blink of an eye. B. could not tell, however, whether he had expressly pointed out to Marcus Omofuma, in English, that he should blink his eyes once he was prepared to abandon his resistance. Instead, Marcus Omofuma kept tugging angrily and aggressively at his restraints. Before his feet were immobilised, he banged the seat in front of him, so that a passenger seated there changed places with a crew member, and the crew member boxed Marcus Omofuma's ears because he kept kicking the seat in front. B. said he had been surprised by the box on the ears and that he gestured to the crew member, giving him to understand that this should be refrained from.
While there had been many incidents in the past, the deportees had usually calmed down after takeoff. This was the first time that didn't happen. Until then, however, no deportation had ever been called off either. At any rate, all 3 officers had to collaborate continuously to keep Marcus Omofuma quiet. B. sat next to Marcus Omofuma, the two other defendants behind him. Quiet phases kept alternating with sudden, unexpected attempts to free himself. B.'s endeavours to talk Marcus Omofuma out of this were persistently ignored by the latter, B. said. Alleged statements that early on Marcus Omofuma had ceased to exhibit any signs of resistance are repudiated by B. Not until the plane began its descent, 10 to 20 minutes before touchdown, had Marcus Omofuma finally became quiet, he claimed. At this point he conferred with his colleagues as to whether the tape should be removed. They came to a joint decision not to do so, however. On one occasion a crew member asked him to check whether Marcus Omofuma was all right. His nose had certainly been clear, not a millimetre being covered by tape. B. also checked nasal respiration a number of times and felt Omofuma's pulse twice. His breathing was steady and his pulse sensible. Replying to the deputy judge's criticism, that this amounted to indifference as to whether Marcus Omofuma would soil himself - which did indeed happen - B. says that he didn't notice. B. states that the chest was not constricted by the adhesive tape. The deputy judge retorts that he cannot conceive of immobilisation without constriction. The public prosecutor asks why Marcus Omofuma's mouth had not at least been briefly unblocked during a calm phase. In that case, B. says, Marcus Omofuma would again have been able to head-butt or to cause a panic by screaming.
the source of sticking plaster, adhesive tape and velcro tape, defendant
explains that these were purchased privately by colleagues at their own
expense and on each occasion were passed on as a kit, from one deportation
to the next, among Aliens Police officers. The public prosecutor's comment
that 2800 deportations a year, with a kit of this type being carried each
time, would mean considerable expenditure, and why nevertheless no attempt
had ever been made to claim expenses, meets an evasive answer by B. .
Everything was done on a "semiprivate basis", although immediate
superiors were aware of this practice, and it had been discussed with
jurists. Up to 1 May 1999, at any rate, B. had assumed that it was lawful
to seal detainees' mouths with adhesive tape. In response to the public
prosecutor pointing out that the UVS had found as early as 1996 that using
tape to seal the mouth is unlawful, B. claims that he had never heard
of this verdict. "In an ideal case" the mouth would, in any
case, not have been kept sealed for more than 45 minutes.
Report from the trial - Part 1
Trial of the 3 Aliens Police officers ... or perhaps of Marcus Omofuma after all?
Court proceedings on 4 March 2002 (afternoon)
After a lunch break from 12:10 to 13:15, defence counsel Ofner had lost his mobile phone, and proceedings continued with the examination of the other two defendants.
R. - "The packer"
R. himself had taken part in 5 previous deportations, he says, 4 of which had been "problem cases". The written reports of these had always been adaptations of his colleagues' reports and consequently did not contain any specific details relating to the problems the deportations involved. The adhesive tape and the sticking plaster were likewise passed on between colleagues. The thought that that might not be quite legal did cross R.'s mind, but nothing was ever put to their superiors. They simply didn't feel it was anything to worry about, and up to the case in hand nothing had happened, after all. The thought that the immobilisation wouldn't be very pleasant did cross his mind, but he didn't know that something like this could happen. He had no medical training except for a First Aid course when learning to drive.
In the plane, Marcus Omofuma was tied to his seat using 2 to 4 loops of adhesive tape round his body. The adhesive tape went right around his head. Around his chin, a length of adhesive tape was attached to the headrest, thus immobilising his head as well. Some head movement was possible, to the extent that the backrest could move. R. was sitting obliquely behind Marcus Omofuma. His job was to hold onto Marcus Omofuma's backrest. The seat locking mechanism was so worn that Marcus Omofuma was able to push the backrest backwards. To keep the backrest in front of him in its position, R. jammed his knees against the seat in front. At no point was a rubber rope used to lash him down even further. The only go they had at lashing down was with a velcro tape, for just a few seconds, but that didn't make any difference to the immobilisation, so they abandoned the idea immediately. The seat belt was also loose and "made no difference". Nor were the tapes tightened, since that was not possible with adhesive tapes. The judge argues that R. must be the heavyweight world champion if he managed to keep the backrest in position for an hour.
When attorney Zanger quotes from Prof. Brinkmann's report that Marcus Omofuma, probably because of the tightened strap, gradually had more and more difficulty in breathing, he is cut short by the judge who claims that the two experts from Bulgaria and Germany tend to exceed their authority and to state as facts matters yet to be assessed by the court. In response to the judge's point that the defendants would have been quite unable to ascertain whether Marcus Omofuma intended to behave, R. said that other deportations had taken a similar course, and deportees in other deportations had always given in. Eye blinking had always been the signal. But he, from behind, couldn't tell what was going on.
The deputy judge asks whether anybody was in charge among the 3 defendants. R. says that they were all of equal rank, although B. was indeed the group leader. Decisions were sometimes made spontaneously and sometimes in consultation, and they had always been in agreement. Thereupon the deputy judge makes the point that this therefore constituted conscious and deliberate collaboration. Asking whether in R.'s view Marcus Omofuma suffered physical agonies, the deputy judge receives no direct answer, nor does the public prosecutor when he wonders: So you expect us to believe that you, according to the medical expert report, did not notice for half an hour that Marcus Omofuma was dying? Attorney Zanger asks how long the struggle in the van went on for. According to R., this lasted half an hour, and it took 7 officers to get Marcus Omofuma out of the van. Zanger asks whether R. didn't notice any signs of Marcus Omofuma breathing heavily after this effort? R. responds that Marcus Omofuma was probably very fit and had been a footballer. At the time he didn't give any thought to that effort and any consequential difficulty in breathing. Indeed, it was very audible if someone was breathing heavily through the nose. (Comment: In a plane in flight?).
Defence counsel Ofner puts the question whether the 3 officers, in view of the assumed safety risk and the children on board would even have been justified, without consulting the captain, in loosening the restraints? R. replies that in other deportations they had indeed made autonomous decisions. However, neither the 3 officers nor, evidently, the crew members saw any reason to make any alterations to Marcus Omofuma's immobilisation or to unblock his mouth. The children had been very frightened, and a panic situation could easily have arisen if Marcus Omofuma had been able to shout. The public prosecutor's comment is that in Tupolev aircraft in flight one would have to roar like a bull if one wanted to be heard just two rows away. The deputy judge therefore repudiates the possible explanation "safety risk". More probably, it was simply more convenient for the officers to leave the adhesive tape in place and not cause any more of a stir. Attorney Zanger asks why in fact the children, who according to R. kept looking back at them across the seats, were in a panic. R. replies that this was probably due to Marcus Omofuma's repeated aggressive behaviour.
K. - "The one who was bitten"
While B. was to attend to the hands and R to the upper part of the body, his job was to immobilise the feet. To do this, he wound the last velcro tape round Marcus Omofuma's legs underneath the seat and held on to it to prevent him from kicking forwards. K. himself had never experienced a deportation like this one. On previous occasions the threat of using tape had been sufficient to calm the deportees down. It was only his colleagues who told him about problem deportations. He had not been present at a staff meeting where this subject was discussed, according to one of his superiors. In 1995, though, there had been the case of a Black African whose behaviour had been refractory even in pre-deportation detention, whereupon a major when asked for advice is alleged to have said: "Well, have a go at deporting him, you'll soon see what the captain has to say about that." At that time, all deportations were carried out via Balkan Air.
Evidently, B. sitting in front of him had been unable to establish a basis of trust with Marcus Omofuma, as he reported at regular intervals to his colleagues sitting behind him. The crew member had boxed Omofuma's ears rather earlier than just 35 minutes before touchdown. There had been quiet intervals in Marcus Omofuma's raging, and K. was then always under the impression that Marcus Omofuma was regaining energy and was trying to check whether the officers were still alert. At no time did he gain the impression that Marcus Omofuma might be exhausted. At any rate Marcus Omofuma did not give in. In his view, Marcus Omofuma had not suffered physical agonies, and it would have been up to Marcus Omofuma to resolve the situation.
K volunteered for the deportation was that missions abroad carried a bonus.
Attorney Zanger points out a discrepancy in K.'s statements. During a previous examination K. stated that Marcus Omofuma had resisted most of the time. Now he had claimed that Marcus Omofuma had been quiet most of the time. K. sticks with the version that Marcus Omofuma had been quiet most of the time. In view of the discrepancy with available statements by witnesses the public prosecutor applies for two Dutch passengers to be questioned who are on record as having stated that Marcus Omofuma was lashed down with a strap and that they saw considerable force being exerted. The two defence counsels object to the additional witnesses. The two judges together with the two jurors briefly withdraw to confer. They reach the decision that the additional two witnesses from Holland shall be questioned on 8 April.
End of first day of the trial: about 4 p.m.