Schoolboys go on trial for 'torture of classmate'

Click to follow

Eleven schoolboys who spent months systematically torturing a classmate while filming his humiliation with a video camera appeared before a closed juvenile court in Hanover yesterday to give evidence in a case that has shocked Germany.

Eleven schoolboys who spent months systematically torturing a classmate while filming his humiliation with a video camera appeared before a closed juvenile court in Hanover yesterday to give evidence in a case that has shocked Germany.

The boys, aged between 16 and 18, faced 26 charges including causing grievous bodily harm, extortion, coercion and breaking German weapons control laws for a series of offences committed at a vocational school for "learners with difficulties" in Hildesheim.

Between September 2003 and February 2004 the accused were alleged to have repeatedly tortured and sexually humiliated a fellow pupil, now aged 18, at the city's Werner-von-Siemens school.

Prosecutors said the victim, identified only as Dieter, was first attacked by his classmates two weeks after he joined the school to attend a one-year course. Dieter, who was described as "quiet and retiring" and never hit back at his attackers, was taken to a storeroom, beaten, stripped naked and then forced to eat chalk and cigarette butts.

"It was more of a gang than a class of school pupils," said Thomas Sturm, one of the defence lawyers. "They all wanted to be in the gang and so everybody joined in the beatings."

Prosecutors said that by the end of a four-month period, Dieter was beaten and maltreated almost daily by his classmates. He was allegedly subjected to a series of humiliations in which he was ordered to masturbate in front of the other pupils, forced to clean his teeth with floor cleaner and forced to kiss the shoes of his tormentors.

In one incident, Dieter was kicked in the face with a steel-capped boot; in another the accused placed a rubbish bin on his head and beat him with metal rods and a screwdriver. Prosecutors said Dieter claimed one of the teachers at the school "sat and did nothing", although he knew he was being beaten. The accused were said to have filmed several of the beating sessions with a digital video camera and afterwards sent each other still photographs of the "torture" via the internet. Dieter's suffering only came to light after he confided to a psychologist about his ordeal.

Yesterday's proceedings were interrupted after one of the accused, a 17-year-old, failed to appear in court. The trial is expected to hear evidence from the victim. "He is really frightened and not faring at all well," said his lawyer, Gabriele Pochert. "He is hoping that the accused will confess, so that he will have to say as little as possible."

Roman von Alvensleben, one of the defence lawyers, said: "We cannot ignore the fact that these sorts of crimes are being committed with fewer and fewer inhibitions. These boys often don't even realise that they are guilty of an offence."

Yesterday's hearing coincided with the publication of a study on school violence by Germany's Federal Criminal Bureau. It found that 5 per cent of German school pupils were habitually "extremely aggressive" to their classmates and 13 per cent had robbed fellow students.

Comments