In Beating Case, New Evidence and Criticism | News and current affairs from Germany and around the world | DW | 23.04.2006
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In Beating Case, New Evidence and Criticism

Even as DNA evidence appears to implicate a suspect in the brutal beating of an Ethiopian-German near Berlin, one newspaper is contesting a racist motive behind the act.


One week after the beating, friends and neighbors honored the victim at the scene of the crime

A week after Ermyas M., a 37-year-old German of Ethiopian origin, was beaten nearly to death at a tram station in Potsdam, newspaper reports say DNA evidence newly implicates one of the arrested suspects.

According to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, genetic tests on blood found on a bottle placed 30 year old suspect Thomas M. at the scene of the crime.

Newspaper doubts race crime

Newspaper reports are also contesting the notion, currently portrayed in the media, that the crime was based on racial hatred. They say it may have been a drunken brawl gone awry. Nonetheless, there has been a loud outcry at comments made by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who played down the possibility of a racial motive in the case.

Fremdenfeindlicher Mordversuch in Potsdam Opfer Ermyas M

The victim, 37 year old Ermyas M.

In putting forth the possibility that he fight was more a drunken brawl than a race crime, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper noted that the victim, an engineer and a father of two who lives in the town of Potsdam, had a high blood alcohol level (two tenths of a percent) at the time of the fight. He was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head, but a lack of broken ribs or upper body injuries implies he was not beaten once he lay on the ground, the paper said.

According to the paper, the two suspects currently being held in Karlsruhe on charges of robbery and attempted murder, vehemently deny the act. They also deny being part of any radical right wing movement and they have no legal history of radicalism.

Brandenburg's Interior Minister Jörg Schönbohm told Bild am Sonntag the investigation confirmed his notion that radicalsm was not the motive, saying, "the case must first be examined carefully, before making any judgments. … This is a trap a lot of people have fallen into."

A week after the beating, the victim -- who was in an artificial coma and is still in critical condition -- has begun showing signs of improvement.

Internationale Sicherheitskonferenz zur WM in Berlin Schäuble

In March, Schäuble spoke at an international security conference

Meanwhile, opposition politicians continue to criticize statements by conservative Interior Minister Schäuble. In the immediate wake of the attacks, Schäuble noted that "blond haired, blue-eyed people" were also victims of crimes, and "sometimes committed by people who aren't German citizens."

Hubertus Heil, general secretary of the social democrats (SPD), demanded that an explanation from Schäuble for his comments, and the vice president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, warned against playing down such acts of violence.

Heil told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper on Saturday that he found it "shocking that the interior minister negligently plays down such aggressive racism. It is especially bad when someone is beaten nearly to death just because of the color of their skin." Theirse told the paper that Schäuble's words were not helpful. He pleaded for a swift investigation and said any racial motivations for the crime should not be swept under the carpet.

Claudia Roth, Menschenrechtsbeauftragte der Bundesregierung, Interview-Gast bei DW-Radio

The Green Party's Claudia Roth

Earlier, Green Party head Claudia Roth, had called Schäuble's comments "unacceptable and "not worthy of an interior minister." She called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to take up the cause of a fighting the extreme right, saying "we need a strong political signal."

In an interview with Deutschlandradio culture program, Schäuble had warned against jumping to conclusions, saying: "We don't know the motive, we don't know the criminals. We need to be a little careful," before making the controversial ethnicity comments.

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