The first arrests have been made in the case of a black German man brutally attacked in Potsdam. A leading politician warned against concluding it was a racist attack, adding that blue-eyed blondes are also victimized.
Residents of Potsdam lay flowers and candles at the scene of the attack
Four days after a brutal attack in Potsdam that left a black German fighting for his life, police in the state of Brandenburg have made their first two arrests. Few details were released about the suspects, who are aged 29 and 30 and from the Potsdam area.
The two men had been detained for questioning and a decision was pending on whether to bring them before the Federal Court of Justice to be formally charged, the federal prosecutor's office said.
Meanwhile, remarks made about the case by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble further ignited the controversy surrounding the investigation.
Speaking in a radio interview, the interior minister warned against jumping to conclusions as to the motives for the attack, saying all that was known for certain at this point was that a person had been the victim of a violent assault.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble
"Blond, blue-eyed people are also the victims of attacks, sometimes by attackers who might not even have German citizenship," Schäuble added. "That's not any better."
The minister was speaking about the case of Ermyas M., a German of Ethiopian origin who has lived in Germany since 1987. The 37-year-old engineer was assaulted by at least two attackers while waiting for a streetcar in a quiet area of Potsdam and beaten so badly that he is now fighting for his life in hospital.
In a recording of a telephone call the victim made to his wife at the time of the attack, the voices of at least two men can be heard calling Ermyas M. a "nigger."
Greens leader outraged
The leader of the opposition Green party, Claudia Roth, said Schäuble's comments on the case were "insupportable" and "not worthy of an interior minister."
In Potsdam, a man is fighting for his life because he has black skin, Roth said.
"To relativize such a racist attack by comparing it with attacks on 'blond, blue-eyed people' is both cynical and abhorrent," she added.
The leader of the Social Democratic Party's youth faction, Björn Böhning, said that with such remarks, Schäuble was "pouring water on the mills of far-right extremists." He demanded that Chancellor Angela Merkel discipline her wayward minister.
Brandenburg Premier Jörg Schönbohm has also cautioned against assumptions that the attack on Ermyas M. was racially motivated.
Germany's federal prosecutor, however, is treating the case as a racist incident because of the evidence presented in the telephone recording.