Sabine Schiffer, the anti-racist academic accused of slandering a police officer when she suggested institutional neglect could have been a factor in the recent Marwa al-Sherbini case, has been acquitted.
Marwa al-Sherbini was stabbed to death in a Dresden court room by the man (a known xenophobe) against whom she was giving evidence. Her husband was shot (in error) by a policeman during the melee that followed the stabbing. Dr Sabine Schiffer, director of the Institute for Media Responsibility in Erlangen and an expert on racism in the media, had asked in interviews and articles following the event whether institutional neglect could have contributed to the mistaken shooting. She had never named the officer nor accused him of racist attitudes or of acting intentionally. An internal police inquiry cleared him of wrongdoing. But he went on to accuse Dr Schiffer of slander.
A group of academics, journalists, trades unionists, politicians and peace campaigners rallied to Schiffer’s cause by forming an Action Group Against Racism and for Freedom and Expression and Academic Freedom. The group’s view that ‘it should not be illegal to put forward a thesis … so as to improve out insights into how racism works’ was upheld by the Erlangen Municipal Court on 24 March. In dismissing the allegation of slander against the police officer, the court held that Schiffer’s right to criticise the police was in line with the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Read an IRR News story: ‘Germany: freedom to speak on racism under threat’
Read an IRR News story: ‘Germany: why did Marwa al-Sherbini die?’