Subway Attackers Sent to Jail, Could Face Deportation | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.07.2008
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Subway Attackers Sent to Jail, Could Face Deportation

Two young men were given long jail terms for beating an elderly man in a subway. The case triggered a bitter debate in Germany about whether ethnic minorities should be blamed for increasing juvenile violence.

Serkan A., left, and Spyridon L

The two men were convicted of attempted murder.

A 21-year-old Turkish national will spend 12 years in jail while his 18-year-old Greek national accomplice will go to jail for 8.5 years. The defense council had wanted to two young men to be convicted for assault, which would have carried a two-year jail term.

The court called the attack, which occurred just before Christmas in 2007, a "completely meaningless act."

The men, who grew up in Germany, were convicted of attempted murder in the attack on a 76-year-old former teacher. The attack was filmed by the Munich subway's closed-circuit TV cameras.

The retired teacher had reportedly rebuked the two young men for smoking in a non-smoking zone. The men responded by knocking him to the ground and kicking him in the head. The man was seriously injured with a triple fracture to the skull and internal bleeding, but survived.

Men offer apologies, excuses

Still from surveillance footage of the beating

Surveillance footage captured the brutal attack

The accused, 17 and 20 at the time of the attack, were convicted by a youth court in Munich. The younger man will serve his term in a youth detention facility while the older man will go to jail.

Serkan A., 21, said he was high on heroin and alcohol at the time. The 17-year-old Spyridon L. said he was drunk.

Both men admitted to the attack and apologized to the victim in court.

"To this day I cannot say why I did something like that," Serkan A. said in a statement read in court by his lawyer. "I had no intention of killing him."

"I am ashamed," Spyridon L. said. "I am not normally the kind of person who hits old people. I was so drunk, I am sorry."

Case quickly turned political

The victim said he did not regard the apologies as sincere, remarking that the young men "played soccer with my head."

The assault became a political weapon in the hands of Roland Koch, premier of the neighboring state of Hesse. Koch spoke out against what he saw as the courts' reluctance to jail teen troublemakers for minor violence.

In his re-election campaign, Koch and other center-right figures called for special youth jails, or boot camps, which would focus on arduous exercise and military-style discipline.

Koch's campaign drew attacks from opposition parties, who accused him of exploiting anti-immigrant sentiment for political gain. His conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lost the January poll.

Calls for deportation

Roland Koch of the German Christian Democratic Union CDU delivers a speech

Koch wants to toughen laws against juvenile offenders

Throughout January, the German news media highlighted cases of violence by minority youths amid calls for deportation of offenders, but the controversy has since calmed.

Bavarian conservatives have called for a change in laws to maeke it easier to deport convicted criminals. Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said he would like to see the two men sent back to their parents' countries when they complete their jail terms.

"No one could understand how foreigners who would display such a brutality could to be allowed to stay in Germany," Herrmann told the Bild newspaper.

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