German racist thugs jailed

Two neo-Nazis were yesterday jailed by a Potsdam court for a racist attack on three black Britons which left one paralysed.

The incident in June in Mahlow, south of Berlin, exposed persistent xenophobia in the former east Germany and the indifference of local forces of law and order. For three weeks, police in Brandenburg made little effort to catch the culprits. Their attention was finally drawn to the attack by reports in the Berlin Tageszeitung, and the investigation of an official dealing with foreigners.

The culprits were then easily identified, boasting as they were of their exploits at the place which they usually frequent- the Mahlow railway station.

That was where the chase began on that June night. Shouting "nigger", they pursued the Britons as they tried to drive away. One of the skinheads, Mario Potter, 24, threw a brick through the rear window; the car swerved and hit a tree.

Noel Martin, 36, a labourer from Birmingham, was paralysed from the neck down. The passengers, Michael Ricketts and Washington Gladstone, escaped with light injuries.

"We are ashamed of the many cases of blind xenophobia in Brandenburg," said the judge, Claus Przybilla. "I hope this verdict will shake up the people of Brandenburg," he added, jailing Potter for eight years and Sandro Ristau, 18, for five years.

Both admitted to mixing with neo-Nazis, though they denied belonging to any party. They were convicted of grievous bodily harm after the prosecutor failed to make a case for attempted murder.

Organised racist attacks have abated in east Germany but foreigners are still the target of random violence. Two weeks ago an 18-year-old went on trial in Oranienburg, near Berlin, for the murder of another British building worker, Lee Hawthorn, in 1994. He allegedly tied Mr Hawthorn to his car and dragged him for five miles.