It was a decision which baffled the world. Even thought Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri was the subject of an international manhunt as the main suspect in the Berlin Christmas market massacre, police in Germany were prevented from sharing his image.
According to German reports, politician Till Steffan stopped police officers in Hamburg from releasing images of Amri, who has now been shot dead in Italy, even though he was the world’s most wanted man after he turned a truck into a weapon, ploughing through festive shoppers – killing 12 and injuring dozens more.
While media in Germany blacked out the suspects eyes, media in other parts of the world removed the “disguise” and shared the image anyway. The 24 year old was named as the main suspect in the terror attack after his paperwork was found in the cab of the lorry.
According to reports Mr Steffen, who heads up the judicial authority in Hamburg, stopped the images from being properly circulated because he thought to do so could lead to an incitement of racial hatred.
Police were told they could give a description of the terrorist, but that they could not show his images as a result of strict privacy regulations. Insiders say he was worries about stirring up racial hatred. The chairman of Hamburg’s regional police force, Joachim Lenders, has now said that he cannot understand which investigators would have been hindered in such an important manhunt.
It took 12 hours and pressure from German media for Mr Steffen to lift the restrictions. Authorities were understood to be concerned about abusive comments being posted to social media.
Now, CDU politician Richard Seelmaecker has said that it beggars belief that rather than using all means possible to search for Amri, Mr Steffen was apparently more concerned about comments which could be made on Facebook. There are now calls for a judiciary committee review to be called. Meanwhile, the Alternative For Deutschland party has said that he should resign.