Photo of our movement worker Nadine Saeed. Photo: private.
Photo of our movement worker Nadine Saeed. Photo: private.

Nadine Saeed

On 7 January 2005, Oury Jalloh burned to death in a prison cell at the Dessau police station. Bound hand and foot, the Sierra Leonean refugee is said to have taken a lighter from his pocket, drilled a hole in the flame-retardant mattress on which he was lying and set it alight himself. This is the version that the judiciary and the police have held for years. "Oury Jalloh was murdered," says Nadine Saeed. The 37-year-old activist is a member of the Initiative to commemorate Oury Jalloh and has been fighting for a clarification of the case for five years.

The starting point of her commitment was in 2011 and 2012 the trial against the then police service group leader at the Magdeburg Regional Court, which she followed as an observer. "In the 67 main trial days, I experienced how police officers collectively lied and how the judiciary was not interested in finding the truth," Nadine Saeed remembers. "That was intense. The expert opinions, statements and evidence presented there were like an attack on logical thinking. Just as clear was the judge's unwillingness to clear it up. Everyone who sat in the trial couldn't believe it."

The court finally sentenced the duty group leader, who had ignored the triggered fire alarm for minutes, to a fine of 10,800 euros for involuntary manslaughter. However, the court did not cast doubt on the theory of Oury Jalloh's suicide, despite countless investigative mishaps, contradictory statements and indications of third party involvement. "It was obvious that the judiciary wanted to cover up a racist murder in police custody in this trial," says Nadine Saeed.

Nadine is fighting against this injustice together with the initiative in memory of Oury Jalloh. The activists want to disclose facts and initiate investigations, which the justice system and the police have refused to do for years. Nadine and her comrades-in-arms worked their way through the files, contacted lawyers, journalists and experts, organised demos and solidarity events and ensured that the Oury Jalloh case was not filed away.

An important success was the elaborate preparation of independent expert reports. Since the courts in Saxony-Anhalt refused to allow fire tests to reconstruct the fire scene, the initiative commissioned an independent fire report from an expert in Ireland in 2012. Nadine was involved in organising, preparing, accompanying and documenting the trials. A dead pig is usually used to simulate the human body. For Nadine, this simulation was a profound experience. "It was almost impossible to set fire to the pig on the mattress with a lighter. It couldn't have been like that."
In November 2013, the initiative presented the expert opinion at a press conference in Berlin - with great media coverage. In the following years, Nadine Saeed travelled to London and established contacts with four other international experts in the fields of fire forensics, forensic medicine and toxicology. All four expert opinions determined that the death of Oury Jalloh could not have been a suicide.

The public prosecutor's office in Dessau could no longer refuse to accept these new findings and the pressure from the public and started a new investigation in 2014 to clarify the cause of death. A new fire report is planned for mid-August 2016. Nadine Saeed does not have much confidence that the public prosecutor's office really wants to clarify the course of events after more than ten years of inactivity. That is why the initiative will stay on the case and keep up the pressure. She is not only concerned with justice for Oury Jalloh, but also with the issue of racist police violence in general and the broad social acceptance of this injustice. "It is not only Oury Jalloh who was killed. There are so many who have been killed by police violence in Germany," says Nadine. "This case offers the chance to bring the issue to the public and thus prevent future violence."

She sees clear parallels to the cases of racist police violence in the USA. The media likes to point the finger at the USA. "But the cause is racist ways of thinking that are deeply rooted in society - not only in the USA, but also here in Germany," says Nadine, who studied African Studies and Geography. After her studies, she first worked full-time and unpaid in the self-organised contact and counselling centre for refugees and migrants in Berlin, until she finally put all her energy and working hours into clarifying the circumstances of Oury Jalloh's death.

Her private life in an ecological cultural project near Berlin has long since merged with her political activities. Her desire to shed light on the situation has led to massive state repression, which also affects her environment. "I have been under surveillance for four years. My communication by mobile phone is interrupted at times. We from the initiative are inundated with criminal charges by the State Protection Service and portrayed as violent criminals," Nadine reports. In addition, there are death threats from the right-wing scene. But Nadine and her comrades-in-arms don't want to let that stop them. "It is important that we continue. There are lawyers, there are journalists. But apart from the initiative, there is no one who will gather everything and put pressure on this case."

Nadine hopes that being included in the Movement Work Programme will give her more financial independence and also protection through more publicity. She also draws strength from what the initiative has achieved so far. "A lot of people are taking what we are doing and carrying it forward. That's great!" Many also see the initiative as a role model that gives courage, Nadine says. "We have shown that you don't have to tolerate injustice. If you join forces, you can achieve something!"