Prosecutor requests 4 years of prison for German preachers accused of causing panic in Valencia metro
In the summer of 2018, a stampede broke out when a group of nine evangelists were preaching in the Spanish city's public transport. They are being judged for public disorder and injuries.
Protestante Digital · VALENCIA · 10 MARCH 2021 · 17:00 CET
The trial of the 9 Germans of the group Werde-Licht (a Christian ministry from Germany) started this week in the Provincial Court of Valencia (Spain).
The accused defended their innocence in the first sessions. Their lawyer, Andrés Zapata, requested their acquittal because “they did not commit a crime”, he told the court.
In contrast, the Public Prosecutor requested a punishment of 4 years and six months of prison.
In the afternoon of 4 August 2018, nine Christian preachers of the German Werde-Licht group entered a carriage of Valencia’s Line 5 metro. They accessed it carrying a one-meter-high red cross, a megaphone, a trolley with Bibles and some evangelistic tracts. At that time, the underground was full of young people going to a summer fair.
At a certain point, one of them started to preach in German using the megaphone while another member of the group simultaneously translated his speech into Spanish. One of the sentences that can be heard in the videos presented as evidence during the trial is: “We have a message for you, this metro is full of sin, of drugs, of fornication…”.
Moments later a big confusion broke out among the passengers, especially after a young man who did not belong to the group started to mock the preacher yelling: “We are all going to die!” The man would later try to calm the fellow passengers by adding: “It’s not true, it’s a joke”.
But according to the defence of the nine German citizens, it was the comments of this non-related passenger which originated panic situation. Dozens of passengers who thought they were witnessing a terrorist attack, tried to escape the metro in an avalanche that caused injuries of varying severity.
Six witnesses told the court that it was the messages of the preachers that caused the panic scenes. “I heard several people say that there was a bomb”, said a woman who fell on the ground while trying to escape, and who later reported the incident to the police. Another witness, who injured her ankle said she still needed psychological help and was not yet able to enter a metro train.
The defence lawyer focused the questions to witnesses and defendants around the false alarm started by the passenger that joked about a terrorist attack. A witness told the judge: “People panicked and left in a stampede because they were scared” after rumours were heard about a bomb. “I heard it from other passengers, not from the people with the megaphone”, he clarified.
Another witness said several passengers were yelling: “Open the doors, there is a bomb”.
Several passengers were injured in the incident. A 25-years-old woman suffered injuries in the feet that only healed after 259 days, the judge was told.
Minutes after the stampede, private security officers of the metro Valencia and the National Police arrived at the scene, and detained the German citizens.
The preachers were jailed and one week later, freed after paying a bail of 3,000 euros each.
“We only wanted to transmit the message of the Bible”
During the session, the defendants have explained that they are German Christians (from different ethnic backgrounds) that were visiting the cities of Benidorm and Valencia for some days to do evangelism activities.
“As the unrest began, I wasn’t understanding what was happening”, said one of the accused, who added that when they understood the “panic” situation they stopped using the megaphone. Their only aim, they told the judge, was to transmit “the message of the Bible”.
That day of August in the metro, another of the German Christians reacted to the growing fear of the passengers by saying: “You only need to fear sin”. A third member of Werde-Licht was wearing that day a t-shirt with an Arabic inscription which, he clarified in the court, meant: “Peace with God”. His aim, he added, was to “preach the message of Christ to Arabs”.
One of the defendants explained that in Germany they were used to preaching in the metro but there, passengers often react with “indifference and lack of interest”. The man lamented what happened in Valencia.
The Christian group apologises
Already in 2018, the Werde-Licht group expressed their apologies in a video shared on Youtube. One of its representatives, Markus Von Ahmed, explained that the consequences that day were not expected and that it was not the message of the evangelists what caused the grave incident.
“We are not a cult, but very normal Christian, with our families and our jobs”, Von Ahmed said back then. The aim of the Christian ministry, which supports former Muslims who have turned to Christianity, is to “be a witness in cities that Jesus is the only God and Saviour”.