The Week Ahead: Skinhead trial stokes fears in Germany

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The Independent Online
GERMANS' jitters about neo-Nazi racists are likely to be heightened by the trial that opens today of two skinheads accused of inciting a racist assault on American Olympic athletes in the winter sports resort of Oberhof. In the attack, which focused world attention on the resurgence of Nazi sentiments among some young Germans, 15 skinheads beat up a member of the United States toboggan team last October after he had tried to protect a black team-mate from the assailants.

The two ringleaders, aged 16 and 21, are charged with causing grievous bodily harm; they face up to five years in jail. Five others who took part face similar charges and will be tried later.

The case is bound to attract a great deal of media attention: seven television crews are expected to squeeze into the small courtroom in the nearby town of Suhl. Duncan Kennedy, the US luge team member who suffered bruised ribs and concussion from the beating, says he will also be there. Kennedy was attacked when he stood in front of his black team-mate Robert Pipkins to give him time to escape after the skinheads started taunting him with monkey noises and shouts of 'nigger'.

The owner of the disco where the attack took place says business has slumped since the incident, which so outraged public opinion that the Mayor of Oberhof sent a letter of apology to President Bill Clinton. She is keen for the American athletes to visit and has promised them drinks on the house if they do. But neither man says he has any plans to return.

Another sporting event tainted by violence is the European Figure Skating Championships that open in Copenhagen tomorrow. Security is to be stepped up following the clubbing of the US skater Nancy Kerrigan, but the prospect of bodyguards everywhere will dismay both the German skater Katarina Witt - who said recently 'in skating we want to be close to our audience' - and the fans of Torvill and Dean.

The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, meets Yasushi Akashi, head of the UN peace-keeping operation in the former Yugoslavia, in Geneva today to discuss possible Nato military action against Bosnian Serbs to reopen Tuzla airport and Srebrenica.

Eight foreign ministers of the Islamic Conference Organisation convene in Geneva today for talks on Bosnia, and meet the UN negotiators Thorvald Stoltenberg and Lord Owen who supervise resumed peace talks tomorrow between leaders of Bosnia's Muslims, Serbs and Croats. And in a further attempt to make words speak louder than weapons in the Balkans, the second session of the UN Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal opens in The Hague, but delegates will do little more than set the rules.

Vehicles completing the Paris-Dakar road race should roar up the Champs Elysees in Paris today. And on Saturday, the 62nd Monte Carlo Rally departs from Bad Homburg in Germany and will include three Mini Coopers, marking the model's 35th anniversary.

Friday is the 70th anniversary of the death of Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution and an embarrassing relic of a discredited epoch. Russians are wondering whether this might be the moment when his body is finally taken from his mausoleum in Red Square and buried in St Petersburg alongside his mother. The city's mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, whose proposal this was, says it is time to bury the 'leader of the world proletariat'.

Such an action would end an awkward interlude in which the authorities have been scratching their heads about what to do with their erstwhile hero. The government of Boris Yeltsin, committed to forging a capitalist market economy, has been eager to expunge all symbols of the Soviet regime. But the decision has been left with the new parliament and the unexpectedly large number of former Communist and nationalist MPs will probably be reluctant to dislodge Vladimir Ilyich from his place of honour.