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The cannibal is facing life in prisonImage: AP

German Cannibal Back on Trial

DW staff (jb)
January 12, 2006

Armin Meiwes, the self-confessed German cannibal convicted of killing a man, began his retrial on murder charges Thursday in Frankfurt.


German prosecutors are asking for life in prison for the German man who killed a man and ate him afterward, video taping the act about five years ago.

Armin Meiwes, 44, was convicted in January 2004 of manslaughter and given an eight-and-a-half-year sentence for cutting up a man he met through the Internet three years before when he advertised for someone willing to be eaten.

But German's highest court ruled last spring that the sentence was too lenient and that the "cannibal" face a second trial on murder charges.

The courts said the crime had most of the features of murder including gratuitous violence and prosecutors said it was murder because he killed to satisfy his own desire. The higher court ruled that the original trial had ignored that the video was made to satisfy the defendant's sexual desires.

Meiwes, a computer expert and former army officer admitted to killing a Berlin man and fellow computer specialist Bernd-Jürgen Brandes, 42. He was given the more lenient sentence of manslaughter because Brandes had requested he be eaten. The men them met near Meiwes' home in Rotenburg in central Germany.

Cheerful demeanor

Meiwes, wearing a dark suit and a black dress shirt and looking thinner than when he was first convicted, was led into the courtroom in handcuffs.

He greeted his three-member legal team with a broad smile and handshakes, cheerfully answered basic questions from the judge, then listened impassively as state prosecutor Marcus Köhler made his opening statement.

"The defendant stands accused of murder for sexual
gratification," Köhler told the three-judge panel before describing the grisly events of a night in March 2001.

Meiwes not insane, experts say

The Frankfurt court has now begun reviewing the story, the motives and will rewatch the video. They will listen to testimony again from original witnesses. And they may also have to examine the man's psychological state, which was ruled warped but sane at the first trial.

Armin Meiwes - Kannibale von Rotenburg
The defense says it was assisted suicideImage: AP

Legal experts believe that the "cannibal" will be convicted of murder this time around. That is because during the first trial, there was little applicable law on the books that suited such a unique case.

That is not the case this time around because of the higher court ruling. Essentially they ruled that the victim's consent is irrelevant because the killing was not euthanasia, which carries a sentence of 5 years, but done to get sexual gratification.

Euthanasia, says the defense

The defence will maintain that Meiwes performed a kind of euthanasia.

"This unprecedented act in German legal history should be judged as killing on demand," defense attorney Joachim Bremer said, a crime that is punishable by a maximum five years in prison.

"Herr Brandes insisted on being castrated and killed as soon as he was unconscious," he said, adding that Brandes had refused medical help offered to him after his penis had been "amputated."

Some criminologists think that Meiwes should just be placed in preventive custody. That is because he showed no repentance during the first trial and said he would kill again if he found a willing victim.

Musik aus Deutschland Rammstein Rosenrot
Rammstein sung about the cannibalImage: KASSKARA

The case has inspired books, countless chatrooms and even a rock song called "Mein Teil" by the German rock band Rammstein.

A movie about the case set for release in Germany on March 9 is called "Rotenburg."

Ermel told reporters that Meiwes had not consented to the making of the film. And he said he will seek an injunction to stop the film because his client resented his portrayal as a "bestial killer" and because it may be prejudicial. Court action may also be taken against the German rock band Rammstein.

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