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Rape: German police subject Nigerian students to compulsory DNA test

The past few months have been trying times for Tony (not real name) and hundreds of blacks from Nigeria and other African countries in Tübingen, a university town in Central Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.

A student at the Tübingen University, south of Stuttgart and native of Anambra State, Tony had learnt to cope with the challenges associated with living in the European country as a migrant. Recently, a rape case in the area being investigated by the police increased the worrisome challenges.

The police are subjecting blacks in the town to a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) test by collecting their saliva in an attempt to fish out the prime suspect behind the alleged rape of a white teenage girl at the Old Botanical Garden in the city centre of Tübingen sometime in September 2017.

The victim alleged that the suspect was a black man. The police also claimed that a DNA pattern carried out on the semen left on the victim’s body corroborated her account. They then sent letters to hundreds of Africans in Tübingen, including Tony, inviting them for a DNA test.

Though a consent declaration form requesting blacks to participate in the DNA test expressly states that “the relevant party has the privilege to decline to give evidence and withhold information,” Saturday PUNCH learnt that many Nigerians are being pressured to submit themselves to the test.

However, beyond the test, 33-year-old Tony and other affected persons fear that the exercise is a return to an alleged racist move ignited by the city’s authorities in 2015.

In 2015, the authorities reportedly proposed the collection of DNA samples of foreigners in the city for crime control, but the plan was greeted with public condemnation for its racist tendencies and was stopped.

“The alleged rape case is shrouded in police secrecy, so we have next to no information on it,” Tony said with a burst of anger.

“At 1 am, how do we differentiate among black Africans, African-Americans, black-Germans, and even black-Asians? How do we indict an entire race in a crime; not a person or group of persons? The police sent out letters to hundreds of Nigerians and Africans in the city and even villages outside the city.

“People who insisted on their right and refused to participate in the voluntary exercise have been repeatedly harassed by the police, including lying in ambush at their residencies as early as 4 am or 5 am.”

Recalling his running battle with the police over the test, Tony said he got the police letters repeatedly but refused to undergo the DNA test because they were unwilling to agree to his terms and conditions.

He said he requested to see a copy of the court order the police claimed to have obtained as permission to collect the DNA sample, but they declined.

 He stated, “They visited my house (in Germany) while I was inNigeria in June 2019. They practically lay in ambush, because they kept driving around my apartment, tensioning the environment unnecessarily. My landlord got pissed off and asked them to end the ambush.

“They narrated the rape incident to the landlord and the need for my DNA sample. The landlord told them I was a different black guy, given my unblemished behaviour in the neighbourhood, and personal relationship with him. Thereafter, the police explained to my landlord the crimes committed by Africans at the said scene of rape, and around the city.

“Again, the landlord came to my defence in my absence. The campaign of calumny was clearly a demonstration of prejudice by the police in their investigation of an alleged rape case. I returned from Nigeria and went to them. They repeated the script of the suspicious rape and provided me with the declaration of consent documents to sign, so they could scoop my saliva.

“I asked if the police could enter into an agreement with me to share equal responsibility with me since they will have a sample of my DNA. I indicated in publishing the exercise in dailies to place the public on notice should the sample be found on any crime scene afterwards, the police and I would be questioned. They refused and stated that the sample would be deleted after the examination exonerates me. I insisted the promise was weak because I have no control of it afterwards.”

Tony explained further that when he could not get a satisfactory assurance from the police, he asked to be given more time to study the documents.

According to him, the police called his line 12 days later, reminding him of the declaration form. He explained that an officer insisted he must have a hearing with the police on the telephone, but he insisted a letter must be sent to him to that effect to make it official.

He stated, “The officer asked for my email address. I insisted on a hardcopy letter to my mailbox like they have always done would be just fine. I told her that if taking time to consult about something as important as my DNA is a refusal, then they are at liberty to arrive at whatever conclusion they wanted.

“I then told her that henceforth I would not talk to her again as the police would thereafter talk to my lawyer. She quickly interjected and tried to convince me that I didn’t need a lawyer. I was mad at her and insisted that such a decision was entirely my prerogative. Then, I went to a lawyer, and she said I should not give the DNA because they have no evidence to bring any charges against me, except that I’m a black man, which is grossly insufficient and cannot stand in court.”

The battle of wits between Tony and the police is not without a cost to the former. Apart from engaging the service of a lawyer for €150 (N60,000), the student has endured the rigour of “the mental war” between him and the whites.

The lawyer now relates with the police regarding the DNA test on behalf of Tony, who had also written to the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tuggar

Our correspondent learnt that only a few blacks, like Tony, could question the alleged suspicions inherent in the DNA test. Many Africans and even students, who are legal immigrants, are said to have been “coerced” into doing the test.
A Nigerian from a South-West state, Ayo, is one of such people. Like Tony, the 27-year-old student at Tübingen University got letters repeatedly from the police for the voluntary DNA. But he refused to turn up for the test, fearing that the police might not delete the sample even if it did not match with the one derived from the purported semen.
One day, the police showed up at Ayo’s dormitory – without a warrant – and reportedly pressured him to fill the consent declaration form and produce his saliva for DNA analysis.
For about 30 minutes, Ayo said he queried the officers on why they were imposing it on him when the form tagged the test optional . But the more he tried to have his way, the harder the officers came on him. He later bowed to pressure like many other students so he could have a peaceful stay in the city.

“They were four that came to the student dormitory that day. They harassed me psychologically. For me, the police officers’ search for blacks at a student dormitory occupied by whites and blacks, stereotypes black people as criminals.

“I have a friend called Victor (not real name), who also bowed to the pressure because the police threatened that he would face the consequence of his refusal. That was why he agreed to the test. We are worried about this issue but many of us are afraid to speak out. Hundreds of black students got the letter.

Black refugees agreed to the test without any complaint because of their status in the country,” he lamented.

A Cameroonian student and Ayo’s schoolmate, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said he witnessed similar harassment.

The Cameroonian said he felt embarrassed when he got a letter inviting him for the DNA a few weeks after the rape incident.

He explained that he discarded it and afterwards, the police sent him reminders and forwarded the letter to his private email, which put him under intense pressure.

He stated that he eventually surrendered to the test, though unsure of whether the specimen would be destroyed if he was not indicted.

He recalled, “They sent me letters after letters; coming into my dormitory and knocking at my door. They even wrote to me via my private email, which I still don’t know how they got it.

“Recently a police officer left her card with my neighbour to give me so that I can call her. I called her and she said she had been trying to reach me for many weeks. She told me that it was about a rape case in September 2017 and that the victim described her assailant as a black.

“I told her that I received the first letter but I didn’t trust the police to destroy the DNA after the examination. She was trying to reassure me that they would actually destroy it if my DNA doesn’t match. So I told her that she could come at my place the next day.

“She came to my place with a colleague of hers and we went to the party room to talk about it. She brought out a paper signed by the police chief. It was stated there that the DNA samples would be destroyed if there was no match.

“I signed it after reading and kept a copy with me. She told me that if the culprit was a white man, they would have done the same thing, but I did not believe her a bit. So, she took my saliva, ran some test and told me that if it was a no match, I won’t hear from them anymore.”

Another Nigerian student, Solomon, residing in the city, however, said naturalised citizens  including those with permanent residency were exempted from the DNA test.

“I have written to the Vice Chancellor, Deputy VC International Affairs, Deputy VC Academics, and the International Office of the University of Tübingen to protect the rights of students, and stop the police harassment,” he added.

Our correspondent obtained a copy of the invitation letter and the consent declaration form, with the former written in German.

The English translation of the letter read in part, “This letter concerns the rape which occurred in Tübingen (Alter Bot. Garten), Saturday, September 23, 2017. You are invited to voluntarily assist the police investigation by offering a sample of your DNA.

“The aim of the DNA analysis is to clear those who are innocent from groundless suspicion. After the analysis, the samples of your DNA will be deleted immediately. They will not be stored in any data bank. Please assist the investigation.”

In the sub-heading at the end of the consent declaration form, it is stated that the relevant party has “the right to refuse to give evidence/right to withhold information.”

When Saturday PUNCH contacted the German police through the mobile phone number supplied on the invitation letter on Tuesday, an officer, who gave his name only as Augsburger, confirmed the DNA test regarding the rape case.

Augsburger, who denied that blacks were being forced to undergo the test, said the exercise was not racist-inclined, adding that black Germans were also invited for the test.

He said, “We had a rape in Tübingen in 2017 and the rapist was a black guy. We are asking people in Tübingen to help find the rapist. When you know you are not a rapist, it is easy; you come to the police station for a DNA test. If your DNA is not the same with the rapist, then we destroy it. If the rapist was a white guy, I have to go to white guys.

“You can protest the test if you want. When you say you don’t want to help the police, then I can’t do anything about it. It is your decision. This is not racist. We isolate 300 names and those guys are asked to help the police. I don’t know whether the rapist is a Nigerian, a Kenyan or a  black German, which is possible. I check black people not a Kenyan, or a Gambian. I check all.

“More than 200 people have done the test because they want to help the police to find the racists.”

The officer was, however, silent on how the 300 blacks were chosen  and why others were exempted.

When contacted, the Chairman, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said she had yet to be briefed on the issue.

Repeated calls made to the two mobiles of the Nigerian Embassy in Germany were not answered and a mail sent to the Embassy had yet been replied to as of press time on Friday.
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