World

Pakistani man wrongly arrested for Berlin attack now fears for family

LONDON:The Pakistani man wrongly arrested for the Berlin truck attack yesterday said he had told German police he cannot even drive, and is now afraid for the safety of his family back home.

Mr Naveed Baloch, an asylum seeker from Balochistan province, told the Guardian newspaper he had just left a friend's house when he saw a police car approaching fast, and picked up his pace.

He said he was arrested and taken to a police station, where he was undressed and photographed.

"When I resisted, they started slapping me," the 24-year-old, who has been living in a secret location provided by police since his release because he said he is afraid for his life, told the British daily.

Mr Baloch, who sought refuge in Germany as a member of a secular separatist movement in Balochistan, said he struggled to communicate because they could not find a translator to speak his native Balochi.

"I calmly told them I cannot drive at all. Neither can I even start a vehicle," he said.

Mr Baloch was arrested on Dec 19 in the hours after the attack on a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin that killed 12 people.

Police released Mr Baloch 24 hours later, after failing to find evidence of his involvement.

Mr Baloch, a shepherd by profession, said members of his family in the village of Mand in Balochistan in south-west Pakistan had received threatening phone calls following his arrest.

'VULNERABLE'

"Now they all know I fled to Germany, fearful of my life, and that I am claiming asylum here.

"It leaves my family very vulnerable and there is nothing I can do to protect them," Mr Baloch told the Guardian.

He said he left Pakistan around a year ago, arriving in Germany via Iran, Turkey and Greece, because of death threats he had received for his activism for the Baloch National Movement.

"Most of the people I worked with have been arrested and killed. I knew it was a matter of time before they came for me. That is the reason I came to Germany," he said.

Balochistan province has been plagued for decades by a separatist insurgency and sectarian killings. - AFP

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