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Verdict expected in racially motivated German arson attacks

The trio suspected of setting fire to a refugee home in Lower Saxony may see multi-year prison sentences for attempted murder. Prosecutors have argued that the defendants had intended to kill refugees.

The village of Salzhemmendorf in the German state of Lower-Saxony is again on the national stage this Thursday as the verdict is due in one of Germany's most high-profile trials.

Prosecutors called for harsh sentencing against three men suspected of having carried out

an arson attack that nearly killed four refugees

, three of them children.

For the 31-year-old Dennis L., prosecutors demanded an eight-year prison sentence for attempted murder. Authorities have alleged he threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of a refugee home last August, where it set fire to a mattress in an apartment used by a family of Zimbabwean asylum seekers. Only because the children were sleeping in a separate room with their mother was no one injured, investigators said.

Defendant Sascha D., 25, should be given seven years in jail as an accessory to attempted murder; and their driver, Saskia B., a 24-year-old mother of two, ought to see four years and two months in prison for enabling the crime, the state argued.

Around 30 refugees live in the building in Salzhemmendorf where the attack took place. At the trial in Lower Saxony's capital, Hannover, prosecuting attorney Katharina Sprave accused the two male defendants of having clearly racist motives.

The evening began with listening to music from the extreme right, Sprave said, then getting drunk and complaining about the "shit asylum seekers."

"What we have here is an attack made purposely against a place where dark-skinned people lived," Sprave told the court in her closing remarks, and added that the two men said they "would celebrate" if black people burned because of the attack.

Second arson had clear far-right connections

Another arson attack on a refugee home, this time

in the eastern town of Nauen

, was also in the spotlight on the same day after security officials said they believed it was carried out by a "far-right guerrilla" group. The group had "clear connections to the [ultra-nationalist political party] NPD," said Karl-Heinz Schröter, the interior minister for the state of Brandenburg.

Spürhunde zur Brandaufklärung in Nauen

The conflagration in Nauen was so severe firefighters had no choice but to let it burn down

Indeed, the main suspect in the attack, Maik S., was openly a member of the NPD, a party currently on trial in Germany's highest court as state governments want it banned for inciting racial hatred.

The incident, which also occurred in August 2015, saw a sports hall that was scheduled to become a center for asylum seekers burst into flames in what authorities called the worst case of arson in Brandenburg for more than two decades.

In line with the German press code, Deutsche Welle has chosen not to publish defendants' full names.

es/rg (AP, dpa, epd)

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