Neo-Nazi killer jailed for life

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SCHLESWIG - A German court yesterday gave maximum sentences to two skinheads for the murder of three Turks in Molln a year ago. The verdict was hailed as a landmark in the fight against neo-Nazi racial hatred.

The five judges in the northern town of Schleswig sentenced Michael Peters, 26, to life imprisonment and Lars Christiansen, 20, who is legally a juvenile, to 10 years, for murder, attempted murder and aggravated arson. The court found the men threw petrol bombs into two houses inhabited by Turks, accepting fully that they could be killed. Neither showed any emotion when the verdict was read.

'Such acts can only be carried out when one is indifferent to the fate of the victims,' Hermann Ehrich, the presiding judge, said in his judgment. The most shocking aspect was that the two 'moved on unmoved to the next attack at a time when the first victims could already have been dead in the flames'.

It was the second attack that killed Bahide Arslan, 51, and the two girls she tried to save, her 10-year-old granddaughter Yeliz, and a cousin, Aysche Yilmaz, 14. 'The hatred I carried in me is now extinguished,' said Faruk Arslan, Yeliz's father. Hans- Christian Stroebele, the family's lawyer, called the verdict 'the most important decision yet in a German court against extreme right-wing violence . . . It shows that Turks in Germany can get fair treatment from a German court.'

The Molln attack in November 1992 was, at the time, the most brutal attack in a wave of right-wing violence that has now lasted almost three years and killed at least 30 people. The attack shocked Germany; hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protests and the government was forced to stop playing down the scale of neo-Nazi extremism. Yesterday officials said that racist and far-right violence had diminished this year.

The judge dismissed the picture painted by Mr Stroebele of the defendants as two hard-bitten Nazi thugs. 'Certainly the racist motive was to the fore,' Mr Ehrich said, adding the two were not true believers in right-wing ideology but rather maladjusted youths from tormented backgrounds who found a brutal form of compensation. Both men are to appeal.