Three neo-Nazi youths convicted over murder of Mozambique-born man

 

Three neo-Nazis were convicted of murder yesterday for beating to death a Mozambique-born man last June. The court in the eastern German town of Halle jailed Enrico Hilprecht (24) for life, and sentenced Frank Mietbauer and Christian Richter (both 16) to nine-year juvenile terms for the attack on Mr Alberto Adriano in a park in the eastern town of Dessau on June 11th.

The three admitted on the first day of the trial last week that they beat and kicked Mr Adriano unconscious but said they were drunk at the time. Their lawyers argued unsuccessfully for a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds that they had not intended to kill their victim.

The three had been drinking beer in the city park when Mr Adriano had passed them around 1.30 a.m. on his way home. They began insulting him, shouting "Blacks out" and "Get out of our country", and began to chase him. They began kicking him with steel-toed boots, ripped his watch from his wrist and tore off his trousers. After he stopped moving, they kept kicking him, then dumped his body in a bush from which they then hung his trousers.

The three were apprehended by police shortly afterwards not far from the park. Mr Adriano, a 39-year-old father of three with a German wife, died three days later from internal bleeding.

Judge Albrecht Hennig said in his verdict that the three had killed Mr Adriano simply because he was black.

"It is the latest in the long chain of attacks which we must bring to an end," he said.

The trial was conducted with unusual speed, mostly because of the nature of the crime. The trial was unique in Germany as the prosecution was conducted by the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office, which normally takes over only terrorist cases. The trial focused national attention on violence against foreigners and was the first real opportunity for Germany to show that it would no longer tolerate extreme-right violence after a summer of high-profile xenophobic and racist attacks.

The sentences imposed were the toughest available under German law. Mietbauer and Richter were tried as juveniles and faced a maximum 10-year sentence. The defendants remained impassive as the verdict was read out. Last week during the reading of the indictment, Richter had difficulty suppressing a grin.

Mr Adriano's widow, Angelika, was not in court for the verdict. Her whereabouts are being kept secret by police after she reportedly received threatening letters and telephone calls.

"She is simply too scared because of her children. She would like to come but she doesn't want to leave them alone," said Mr Razak Minhel, a spokesman for the commission for foreigners affairs in Dessau.

Mr Adriano moved to what was then East Germany from Mozambique in 1980 as part of a worker exchange programme between the two socialist countries.

The German Chancellor, Mr Gerhard Schroder, is expected to lay a wreath in the park where Mr Adriano was murdered when he visits Dessau today as part of his 12-day tour of eastern Germany.

During his trip Mr Schroder has stressed that any problems of violence against foreigners in eastern Germany are a problem for the whole country.

"That is not Germany," he said, referring to the series of extremist attacks this summer. "Germany's image is made up of decent, hard-working people. That is the image of Germany we want to spread abroad," he said.

Mr Schroder yesterday reiterated what he calls his three-pronged approach to the problem of neo-Nazi violence. He called for increasing toughness by police and the courts against perpetrators of extremist violence as well as more employment training opportunities for young people to draw them away from the neo-Nazi scene. Finally, he called on ordinary citizens to show greater social responsibility when confronted with any form of racism.

"This will only work if you all show the same civil courage you demonstrated 10 years ago in bringing democracy to eastern Germany. It's time again to show that courage," he said.

Nearly 10 per cent of Germany's total 82 million population is foreign-born. But in cities like Dessau, where Mr Adriano died, less than 2 per cent of the population is foreign-born.