A court in Duisburg, the German city where a stampede at the Love Parade festival in 2010 killed 21 and injured hundreds, said Tuesday that it has dropped criminal proceedings against 10 individuals charged over the deadly crush.
In February 2014, state prosecutors in the western German city charged six employees from the local authorities and four employees of the organizer Lopavent with negligent manslaughter and assault.
The court has since decided not to initiate penal action against the individuals for their suspected role in the accident. In a statement on Tuesday, it said that it had found "no adequate grounds for suspicion."
On July 24, 2010, panic erupted in an access tunnel to the grounds where the Love Parade techno festival was being held. Nineteen people were crushed or trampled to death, while two people later died in hospital. At least 652 people were injured, some of them severely.
The state prosecution service said later Tuesday that it would file a complaint against the judges' ruling to drop the criminal court case, which it slammed as "incomprehensible."
Public anger over the decision has led to finger-pointing, with the court charging that the evidence submitted by the prosecutors was insufficient.
The investigation's change of tack was met by disappointment from families of the victims.
"I feel traumatized all over again," Manfred Reissaus told dpa. His daughter was killed in the stampede.
"It gave us hope that we, as parents, were waiting for a trial to take place at some point," he said.
Reissaus added that he and many other relatives have completely lost faith in the authorities.
The investigation into charges of criminal negligence lasted three and a half years, during which time police and prosecutors developed a main case of evidence stretching to 46,700 pages and filling 99 folders.
Despite the decision to drop criminal proceedings, the court is set to rule on several civil cases filed in the wake of the tragedy, with two hearings regarding compensation for victims to be held on May 11, it said.
The cases were brought about by two women aged 48 and 30 who were injured in the mass panic.
Twelve civil cases are outstanding in total. They have been filed against the festival organizers as well as local authorities at city and state level.
The court stressed that these hearings will not deliver any judgement on who was at fault and will purely focus on facts relating to the payment of damages.