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Youths on trial over Berlin subway attack

May 9, 2017

Six young men charged with the attempted murder of a homeless man in a Berlin station have appeared in court. The attack, which sparked national outrage, was likely a "spontaneous act of boredom," prosecutors said.

Berlin U-Bahnhof Schönleinstraße
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Kleinschmidt

The trial into the attempted murder of a sleeping homeless man at a Berlin subway station began on Tuesday, accompanied by a large media presence.

Six of the defendants, born in Syria and Libya, are accused of attempting to kill a sleeping homeless man by setting him alight. All of the suspects are aged between 16 and 21. Another 17-year-old suspect has been accused of failing to provide assistance to the victim.

Only the 21-year-old man, who is suspected of starting the fire, is being tried as an adult.

Deutschland Jugendliche versuchten Obdachlosen anzuzünden
Burn marks could be seen on the bench where the homeless man had been sleepingImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P Zinken

The prosecution has accused the defendants of carrying out a "treacherous and cruel" act. State prosecutor Martin Glage told journalists on Tuesday that the idea to set fire to the homeless man was likely borne from a "spontaneous act of boredom."

Glage said he expects "a medium-level" sentence for the defendants.

On Christmas Eve last year, the group allegedly set fire to objects near the head of the man who was sleeping on a bench in Schönleinstraße subway station.

Passengers on an incoming subway train were able to put out the flames and the 37-year-old man from Poland was not injured. However, all of his belongings were destroyed.

The case sparked outrage across Germany last year when police released security footage of the suspects, which followed on the heels of another attack in a Berlin subway where a woman was kicked down the stairs.

rs/rt (AFP, dpa)