Neo-Nazis on trial for fatal beating in Germany

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The Independent Online

On a Saturday night in eastern Germany, three tanked-up lads yelling: "National resistance on the march" corner a black man in a park and have a bit of "fun". Within minutes, their prey, a Mozambican named Alberto Adriano lies in coma. He dies three days later.

On a Saturday night in eastern Germany, three tanked-up lads yelling: "National resistance on the march" corner a black man in a park and have a bit of "fun". Within minutes, their prey, a Mozambican named Alberto Adriano lies in coma. He dies three days later.

The horrific account of that night in Dessau two months ago was pieced together for the first time yesterday as Mr Adriano's killers went on trial for murder. Sitting in the court in Halle to hear the indictment was Mr Adriano's German widow, Angelika.

The prosecutors say the two 16-year-old and the 24-year-old defendants have confessed to the crime and admitted the motive was hatred of foreigners. Hatred of unimaginable depth. They had begun with routine insults, as they stumbled across their victim, who was on his way to his home at the edge of the park in Dessau. "What are you doing here in Germany?" they had inquired, before moving on to chants of "blacks out" and "get out of our country, you nigger pig."

By this time the fists were flying. When Mr Adriano fell to the ground, the combat boots came into action. He was kicked relentlessly, still screaming. Enrico Hilprecht, 24, is said to have stamped his heels on the victim's head 10 times. When Mr Adriano was no longer moving, they stripped him of his clothes and kicked him a little more. They were still at it, chanting and singing, when a police patrol car arrived.

Yesterday, they sat in the courtroom po-faced. Christian Richter, Frank Miethauber and Mr Hilprecht kept their hair cropped extra short for their day in court. Mr Miethauber sported a tiny facial growth that could easily be mistaken for a Hitler moustache. All three are said to come from the neo-Nazi milieu.

But even by the standards of neo-Nazi violence, the ferocity of the attack on Mr Adriano shocked Germany. Mrs Adriano says her husband had lived in the country for nearly 20 years, been married to her for the last 12, and never before been subjected to racial abuse in his adopted home town.

Dessau, better known for its links to the avant garde Bauhaus movement than far-right thuggery, was relieved to discover Mr Adriano's murderers had come from out of town. Nevertheless, to play safe and avoid demonstrations of sympathy, their trial was moved to distant Halle.

In the past, such murderers often got away with a light sentence. This time, to show how seriously the government of Gerhard Schröder is treating hate crime, Germany's chief prosecutor, Kay Nehm, was put in charge of the case.

Another prosecutor, Joachim Lampe, opened the proceedings with a withering attack on the defendants' motives. "The accused assumed that Mr Adriano could die as a result of their attack, but their hatred of foreigners made them indifferent to this," he said.

The defendants will try to plead diminished responsibility owing to their inebriated state but, in the political mood, the 24-year-old will be lucky to get away with much less than a 15-year sentence for murder.

Manfred Püchel, the interior minister of Saxony-Anhalt, where Dessau is located, said: "Without wanting to put the independence of the judiciary into question, the culprits must feel the full force of the law.

"The death of Alberto Adriano is a sad and repugnant example of what xenophobic views can lead to."

The crime, and last month's bomb attack in Düsseldorf on a group of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, has shown the country that to some Germans a foreigner's life is not worth a lot. Unfortunately, this attitude is not confined to a lunatic fringe. A hospital in Münster, west Germany, confirmed yesterday it had refused a heart transplant to a Turkish woman who has lived in Germany for 21 years because she does not speak German. Fatma Eladi, 56, was turned down on the ground that she would not be able to understand doctors' instructions.

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