Oury Jalloh (2 June 1968 – 7 January 2005) was a Sierra Leonean refugee who died in a police station in Dessau, Germany, tied with handcuffs to a fire-proof mattress at his hands and feet. The cause of death was officially recorded as heat shock, the police claiming he set fire to the mattress with a cigarette-lighter, causing the mattress to burn thus burning himself.
This version provoked a lot of doubts, which since then have only increased as to number and seriousness. According to the investigators, the fire broke out in the cell around midday. The fire alarm went off on two occasions. Noises and cries for help coming from the acoustically controlled cell were registered but ignored. Supposedly, the supervising police officer turned off the sound of the acoustic system shortly before twelve because he could not understand a telephone conversation. Only when the air-control alarm went off did he go down into the basement where the cell was located. But by that time Jalloh was found lying on a burning mattress, his body severely burned. The remains of a lighter were only found in later investigations.
In the period following Jalloh’s death there is still no closure, either as to the circumstances of his death nor who is responsible for it. In spite of massive and publicly known irregularities and contradictions, no legal proceedings seem likely. The responsible police and doctor continue their work. Although the State Prosecutor of Dessau has made formal accusations of negligent homicide and bodily harm with fatal consequences, new excuses are nevertheless found to close the case—to the point of absurdity. By some accounts the formal complaints lodged by lawyers on behalf of the family are invalid because there is not enough evidence to prove whether the people claiming to be the family of Oury Jalloh really are members of his family. Although the press, on several occasions, reported on the alleged racist background in relation to the unclear circumstances of the death of Jalloh and a few initiatives have demanded a complete clarification of the contradictions, the court has been blocking legal proceedings.
Mouctar Bah, the person who has most engaged himself for truth and justice in the case of Jalloh’s death, has been criminalized and persecuted. On the 7 FebruaryTemplate:Which year?, the local authorities closed Mouctar’s Telecafé—out of “public interest.” The accusation was that Mouctar allowed drug dealers into his store. The Telecafé was the basis of Mouctar’s financial existence and the meeting place for the Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh.
Protests were planned for 1 April 2006 in Dessau and London.