Wednesday, 12. March 2014 - 01:03
19. 11. 12. - 16:00
A green campaigner in Germany is facing attempted murder charges and a bill for close to a million pounds after a spectacular attempt to stop developers from destroying an ancient woodland by building a massive tunnel network six meters underground.
The Hambacher Forst in North Rhine Westphalia is home to trees which are hundreds of years old as well as a colony of the protected Bechstein's Bat. The local council has given permission for the trees to be felled and also to open up the possibility of mining brown coal (Lignite) for fuel.
Environmental activists who opposed the felling and mining set up a small village in the middle of the forest in April of this year, and realising that at some stage police would attempt to evict them they also constructed a massive underground tunnel network dubbed The Warren.
When officers turned up to dismantle the camp several fled into the tunnel system and refused to come out.
Police spokesman Marcel Weisz said: "It was extremely dangerous for them as the tunnel system was very rudimentary and could have collapsed at any time. We had no idea where the tunnels went or how extensive the network was, and no tree felling could happen while they were there."
Three of the four underground protesters were quickly arrested, but the fourth managed to give emergency workers the slip for four days before he was finally dragged out of the hole. Police were forced to dig down to the tunnel network and fit concrete rings to support the walls of the shaft in order to access the network built by the environmentalists.
They accused the man of deliberately knocking away support when they tried to enter the tunnel – putting the lives of the emergency workers at risk.
Campaigners said the claim was a lie.
Police also arranged for one of the female activists to try and communicate with the man and persuade him to come out as his own life was also in danger - without success.
Weisz said the man, believed to be a 25-year-old local, had put up a tough fight when he was finally dragged out but he had been left weakened by his four-day ordeal - and had been arrested. As well as the risk of attempted murder charges he also faces trespassing and threatening behaviour charges.
The officer added that between 100 and 500 policemen had been in operation at the site daily including overnight where a minimum of 50 police officers had surrounded the underground tunnel network, which at overtime rates would be close to 50 pounds an hour per man. There were also tunnel building experts as well as fireman on location as well as specialist digging machinery for the week long operation.
It is not unusual for the bill for emergency services to be passed on to Germans who behave irresponsibly. In 2010 a man in Muelheim was handed a 50,000 pounds bill to cover the emergency services costs after they were called out to look for a deadly cobra that had escaped from his flat.
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