Commentary: a just verdict | Opinion | DW | 16.06.2015
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Commentary: a just verdict

Germany was united in horror and grief about the violent death of Tugce. Even though the trial refuted clichés concerning both perpetrator and victim, the three-year jail sentence is appropriate, says Verica Spasovska.

The fate of the German woman with Turkish origin, who died on her 23rd birthday, had inspired grief and sympathy all over the country. The media followed the trial of 18-year-old perpetrator Sanel M., who has to go to jail now, with due interest. With a three-year sentence, the court issued a verdict that differed from the prosecution's demand by a mere three months.

The message is clear: the blow with fatal consequences wasn't a trivial offense that could be atoned for with a suspended sentence and some conditions. This verdict is a warning for everyone who believes in solving every argument with violence. It should also provide Tugce's family with a minimum of satisfaction, even though they said they were disappointed by the mild punishment in a first reaction.

Both sides criticize the verdict

Sanel and his lawyers on the other hand think the verdict is too harsh. They had asked for a suspended sentence and referred to the media's damnation of the defendant even before the trial.

The lawyers said he was known as the evil "thug" from the get-go - a young man with no occupational training who was well-known to the police. Even the state prosecutor was worried about the fact that Sanel was being massively threatened online because of the accusations against him.

On the other side of the conflict was Tugce, the young, well-integrated German of Turkish descent, who studied to become a teacher and died because of her civic courage, because she wanted to help two young girls.

Spasovska Verica Kommentarbild App

DW's Verica Spasovska

Tugce was portrayed as a hero. Good versus evil, that was the picture the media painted after the altercation.

But with more and more details coming to light during the trial, they have readjusted this picture over the last few months.

The trial has shown that things aren't black and white; rather, it revealed many shades of gray that changed the image of both parties.

It turned out that both sides traded provocations and harsh verbal insults. Tugce called the defendant vulgar names as well.

This verbal sparring escalated until Sanel punched Tugce and she fell to the ground. Did he accept the fatal consequences of this strike? Or was he not aware of them?

Another question that remains open is whether Tugce actually came to the then-13-year-old girls to help them drive away Sanel and his friends. This was originally held up as proof for her civic courage.

Defendant still responsible

Yes, it's true: the trial couldn't answer all questions and refuted some hastily established clichés. But what does that change when it comes to the perpetrator's guilt?

It's clear that Sanel crossed a red line when he brutally attacked a woman who was weaker than him. Even if he didn't do it with the intention of killing her and a series of unfortunate events was responsible for Tugce crashing to the ground and falling into a coma, Sanel still has to take responsibility for his actions.

That's why the state prosecutor was right when he said in his summation: "The one-sided picture of the thug doesn't hold up. But that doesn't make the offense any lighter." And it doesn't bring Tugce back to life. That's why the verdict is appropriate.

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