Because a German blogger spread a false report on the case of the dead student Mohammad Barakat around Christmas, the police exceptionally ignored the press code.
The Hamburg Public Prosecutor General’s Office still sees no evidence of third-party culpability in the case of the student Mohammad Barakat, who died of a gunshot wound. This was stated by the public prosecutor responsible for the death investigation when asked by “nd”. Accordingly, the autopsy at the Institute of Forensic Medicine and further investigations had not revealed any relevant evidence.
However, the proceedings are still ongoing, witnesses are being questioned and possible video recordings of the “Hanseatic Gun Club” shooting range, where the incident took place on 19 December, are being viewed. There, near Hamburg’s main railway station, the 21-year-old apparently shot himself in the head with a gun and later died in hospital. The internet magazine T-Online had reported that it was a suicide. The Public Prosecutor’s Office did not want to confirm this – so it could also have been an accident while handling the weapon.
The case had caused confusion over Christmas. The seriously injured student was found in the same shooting club whose member went on a rampage at the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Alsterdorf district on 9 March, shooting seven people and himself. This apparently fuelled rumours among some observers that Mohammad Barakat had died. Martin Lejeune, who gained questionable notoriety after chasing the then Left Party leader Gregor Gysi with a camera into the toilet and later as a enthusiastic supporter of the Turkish president and coronavirus deniers, was the first to report this on social media.
Barakat was the victim of a murder, was then claimed by the blogger Tarek Baé, who describes himself as a “journalist”, without any evidence he wrote about two gunshots. Baé thus fuelled speculation, particularly on the Arabic-language Internet, that the student had been killed because of pro-Palestinian postings on the Gaza war. This is what Baé allegedly learnt from the family of the deceased.
In fact, a person who describes herself as Barakat’s cousin posted such information on X. According to this person, the 21-year-old was an “outspoken Palestinian”. Friends at the university had told his mother that “he was shot in the head twice – execution style by another student at his university”, she wrote.
Baé then asked the police press office on 23 December whether a politically motivated murder was registered there and received a negative response. He took this as evidence that the police wanted to cover up the incident. However, there is an explanation for the press office’s response: “No homicides were reported to us in response to enquiries that evening from the on-call units of the homicide squad and the state security service that even came close to this,” a police speaker told “nd”. The Public Prosecutor’s Office was also initially unable to assign a murder case to these “apparent social media rumours”, the speaker explained. The police then also spread this information on X.
It was only “in the course of the Christmas weekend” that the police claimed to have linked the alleged suicide of Mohammad Barakat to the murder alleged by Baé, the speaker continues. The police normally adhere to the press code and do not normally publicise suicides. However, “due to persistent rumours on the internet”, a statement was published on 26 December stating that there were no indications of a homicide at the time.
Despite this, Baé continued to publish the false report on social media for days, referring to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, which is also said to have told him that the police were investigating the murder. This may also have been a misunderstanding if it was referring to the public prosecutor’s death investigation. The Foreign Ministry in Amman had previously written of an “unfortunate incident”.
Because of the murder rumours, the Jordanian embassy finally contacted the Hamburg police via the German Federal Police, explained the police press spokesman. The police then replied together with the Public Prosecutor’s Office that – as with every death investigation – preliminary proceedings had been initiated in the case of Mohammed Barakat. “Officials from the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are still talking about murder today,” Baé claimed on X on 25 December. In the same post, however, he admitted that he had posted “too hastily” and “with insufficient sources”.
Barakat’s parents would like to travel to Hamburg to collect their son’s belongings, writes the presumed cousin of the deceased on X. But their visa applications had been rejected, she continues.
The deceased’s laptop and phone are also still with the police. However, a spokeswoman told “nd” that the public prosecutor’s office will not decide what to do with the evidence until the investigation has been concluded.
“Should the authorities wish to mediate, I will be happy to take on this task in the background,” Baé wrote in his post, which was actually intended as an apology. After the disinformation that the blogger spread over the Christmas period, this is definitely not advisable.
Published in German in „nd“.