Man wrongly arrested for Berlin attack fears for family

2016-12-30 19:31
Firefighters walk past a truck which ran into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, Germany. (Michael Sohn, AP)

Firefighters walk past a truck which ran into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, Germany. (Michael Sohn, AP)

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London - The Pakistani man wrongly arrested for the Berlin truck attack on Friday said he had told German police he could not even drive and was now afraid for the safety of his family back home.

Naveed Baloch, an asylum seeker from the troubled province of Balochistan, told the Guardian newspaper he had just left a friend's house and was crossing a street when he saw a police car approaching fast and picked up his pace.

He said he was arrested and taken to a police station, where he was undressed and photographed.

"When I resisted, they started slapping me," the 24-year-old, who has been living in a secret location provided by police since his release because he says he is afraid for his life, told the British daily.

Baloch, who sought refuge in Germany as a member of a secular separatist movement in Balochistan, said he struggled to communicate because no translator could be found who could speak his native Balochi.

"I calmly told them I cannot drive at all. Neither can I even start a vehicle," he said.

Baloch was arrested on December 19 in the hours after the attack on a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin in which 12 people were killed.

Police released Baloch 24 hours later, after failing to find evidence of his involvement.

They instead identified rejected Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri as the prime suspect.

Amri was shot dead by Italian police on December 23 after fleeing a manhunt in Germany.

Baloch, a shepherd by profession, said members of his family in the village of Mand in Balochistan in southwest Pakistan had received threatening phone calls following his arrest.

"Now they all know I fled to Germany, fearful of my life, and that I am claiming asylum here. It leaves my family very vulnerable and there's nothing I can do to protect them," he told the Guardian.

Baloch said he left Pakistan around a year ago, arriving in Germany via Iran, Turkey and Greece, because of death threats he had received for his activism for the Baloch National Movement.

"Most of the people I worked with have been arrested and killed. I knew it was a matter of time before they came for me. That's the reason I came to Germany," he said.

Mineral-rich Balochistan province has been plagued for decades by a separatist insurgency and sectarian killings.

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