German race killers given maximum terms

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The Independent Online

The Neo-Nazi thugs who two months ago kicked a man to death in Dessau did not look so tough yesterday.

The Neo-Nazi thugs who two months ago kicked a man to death in Dessau did not look so tough yesterday.

On the news that they were to spend the rest of their youth behind bars, one of the 16-year-olds choked back tears, while his two cohorts struggled to keep a manly composure under an icy mask.

Proving that where there is the political will there is a way, Germany meted out some of the toughest sentences to neo-Nazis in its history. Enrico Hilprecht, the 24-year-old who had kicked the Mozambican Alberto Adriano at least 10 times on that terrible night in June, was put away for life.

Christian Richter and Frank Miethauber, who as minors could not be sentenced to more than 10 years, received nine years.

Politicians had demanded exemplary sentences, and their wish was fulfilled.

Excuses, pleas for extenuating circumstances and the mealy-mouthed apologies that normally guarantee a lenient prison term did not work this time.

All three skinheads were convicted of murder and sentenced accordingly.

In his summation, Judge Albrecht Hennig said Mr Adriano had been murdered simply because of the colour of his skin. "It was the latest in a long chain of attacks to which we must put an end," the judge declared.

The defendants claimed they had been too drunk to be aware of what they were doing. The prosecution, led by Kay Nehm, the highest-ranking official in Germany, who normally deals only with top terrorists, countered that the physical fitness displayed by the three men during the assault proved they were in control. Nor did the court accept the defence argument that they had not intended to kill Mr Adriano.

The skinheads' demeanour during the week-long trial did not help their case. At one point during the reading of the indictment, they laughed at the phrase "hatred of Jews".

For the rest of the time they showed a callous lack of interest in the proceedings. "I tried to look into their eyes and there was nothing there," Mr Adriano's widow, Angelika, said last week. "There was no flicker of emotion, no sympathy, nothing at all. It was horrible."

Mrs Adriano was not there yesterday to see her husband's killers led away to jail. She had received a death threat from a far-right group in Düsseldorf. Police moved her and the three children, the eldest aged 12, to a secret location, but Mrs Adriano fears for their lives, and would not risk another public appearance.

A makeshift memorial marks the spot where Mr Adriano was beaten, repeatedly kicked, stripped and kicked again by three people he had never met. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is to make a scheduled stopover in Dessau today on his tour of eastern Germany, and yesterday it was announced that he would visit the shrine and lay a wreath.

Politicians of every hue have been criticised in recent days for failing to show solidarity with the victims of neo-Nazi terror. Hence Mr Schröder's detour to the park in Dessau, but no meeting with Mrs Adriano is planned.

The Chancellor has repeatedly called on ordinary citizens to engage in the fight against the far right and not to look away when they see a foreigner being attacked. So far his words have had little impact on the violence.

On Monday night two skinheads beat up an African in Lübeck. An asylum-seekers' home near Stuttgart was torched early yesterday, injuring two people. In Berlin two neo-Nazis were arrested for possession of hand grenades.