Three German students at a vocational school in northern Germany have been sentenced to jail time for mistreating a classmate. Six others involved in the abuse that went on for months received lesser sentences.
One of the accused upon his arrival at court on Monday.
The court in the town of Hildesheim, near Hanover, convicted three of the students who abused a classmate of grievous bodily harm and coercion, giving them sentences of between 15 and 18 months in prison. Six accomplices received probation, community service or two weeks in juvenile detention.
A total of eleven students from the Werner von Siemens Vocational School in Hildesheim went on trial on May 25th, but judges had earlier dropped the case against two of those charged for lack of evidence.
In a case that shocked Germany by its seeming senselessness, the students, aged between 16 and 18, beat and kicked their victim, who was 17 years old at the time, only weeks after he had begun a one-year vocational training program at the school.
The abuse took place over a period between November 2003 and January 2004 and included forcing the victim to strip, eat chalk, chew cigarette butts and kiss his abusers' feet. He suffered cuts and bruises.
None of the accused was able to explain why they acted as they did.
The abusers videotaped their actions, which took place in a classroom and a storeroom at the school, eventually posting pictures of the mistreatment on the Internet.
The Werner von Siemens Vocational School in Hildesheim
Prosecutors say the abuse was an open secret at the school, but went on for months before the victim told a school counselor about it. He claimed one teacher at the school knew what was happening but did nothing about it.
While prosecutors had called for sentences of three months for the ringleaders, a court spokesman said the fact that the culprits had confessed to defense lawyers and made sometimes "very personal" apologies had mitigated the sentences and helped the victim, known by his first name Dieter, now 17 years old.
"It's done him a lot of good that all of the accused have apologized to him," his lawyer, Gabriele Pochert, told reporters.
Two of the teenagers were convicted to 18 months in jail, another to 15 months. Three received probation, two must serve two weeks in a youth detention center and one was sentenced to 80 hours community service. Some of the youths will be required to take first-aid courses. "Since they injured someone else, they should learn what kind of consequences injuries can have," court spokesman Jan-Michael Seidel told reporters.