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Germans jailed for World Cup attack on police officer

FOUR GERMAN football hooligans received heavy prison sentences yesterday for the vicious attack on a French policeman during last year's World Cup.

David Nivel, the police officer who lost the sight of one eye and suffered brain damage because of the beating, sat in the court in the German city of Essen to hear the verdict.

Andre Zawacki, 28, was convicted of attempted murder and jailed for 10 years. His companions, Tobias Reifschlaeger, 25, Frank Renger, 31, andChristopher Rauch, 24, were found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm. They received prison sentences of six, five and three and a half years.

Mr Nivel has no memory of that minute of frenzy on 21 June 1998, when he was set upon by a group of German fans with their fists, combat boots, an advertising hoarding and an iron bar in Lens, northern France, after the German team had drawn with Yugoslavia at the nearby stadium.

All four of the convicted men admitted kicking Mr Nivel as he lay on the ground.

They had all been charged with attempted murder, but only Zawacki was found guilty because, in the words of the judge, Rudolf Esders, he had shown "a lust for violence".During the trial, Zawacki was identified as the assailant who had smashed Mr Nivel's head with his own tear gas canister, causing the brain injuries.

The prosecution had used photographs taken by a young Austrian, and the testimonies of other German fans.

Three of the accused apologised in court for their actions, but Mr Nivel's wife, Laurette, said she could never forgive them. "It's been very difficult," she said yesterday outside the courtroom. "It was a very long trial. But now we are finally at an end."

At one point, she confessed she feared the court might free her husband's assailants.

The attack, described by Helmut Kohl, Chancellor at the time, as a "national disgrace", stunned Germany. A collection for Mr Nivel raised thousands of deutschmarks.