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German court jails 4 over attack on Guinean men

May 15, 2023

A court has jailed several men for an attack on three Guinean men in the central German city of Erfurt. The court agreed that the assault had been racially motivated.

The regional court in Erfurt
Charges against some of the accused were dropped in NovemberImage: Martin Schutt/dpa/picture alliance

A regional court in the central German city of Erfurt has sentenced four men who attacked three men from Guinea to between two and four-and-a-half years.

The prosecution said the defendants had beaten, kicked, and racially insulted the three Guinean men in the attack, which took place in August 2020.

What the court decided

The court agreed that a jointly committed offense of bodily harm had been clearly and demonstrably committed out of racist and inhuman motives. Two of the three men who were attacked were seriously injured.

"The Chamber has zero sympathy for this," the presiding judge said.

The Erfurt district court found four out of seven defendents guilty of inflicting dangerous bodily harm. Three defendants received prison sentences between two years and four months and four years and nine months. A fourth man was sentenced to two years probation.

Three other defendants were acquitted by the court. The verdict is not yet legally binding as it can be appealed.

Prosecutors said seven defendants were involved in the attack in the morning hours of August 1, 2020, in the Erfurt district of Herrenberg. However, three of the defendants were found not guilty for a lack of evidence.

The conviction was secured with the use of DNA traces, as well as video and audio recordings made by one of the victims while the attack was taking place. Severe racist insults could be heard in the recordings, the court said. 

While the defense contended that the aggression had been started by the victims, the court did not agree.

"The court found it distasteful that, in this way, an attempt was made to turn the victims into perpetrators," the presiding judge said.

The prosecution had requested prison sentences of between one and six months and four years and three months for the defendants — partly including earlier convictions from other proceedings. One of the jail sentences was suspended.

Several of the men had denied that they were involved in kicking and punching the victims. The proceedings originally saw nine men and one woman accused, but the cases against the woman and two men were dropped in November 2022.

What happened at the time of the attack?

The group of three migrants was attacked while passing through a housing estate, near a "building known to the police" for being a venue often used by far-right extremists.

Investigators had reportedly assumed the attackers were either members or sympathizers of the extreme right party Der III. Weg (The Third Way).

The assault followed a string of far-right, racist, and xenophobic incidents that have been reported in Erfurt in recent years. It also happened just hours before a protest against neo-Nazi violence that was sparked by a separate incident two weeks previously.

That attack was initially described by the authorities as a "fight" between two groups of young men, but an increasing number of sources claim that a group of far-right extremists infiltrated another group and started a pre-planned physical assault against their targets.

rc/rt (dpa, epd, AFP)