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German Court Sentences Firebombers

October 5, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ With politicians pledging to hit right-wing extremists with the full force of the law, an eastern German court sentenced a man and teen-ager Thursday to long sentences for attempted murder in a firebomb attack on a Vietnamese family.

Marcel Hanwald, 23, was sentenced to nine years and his 16-year-old accomplice, Andreas Pischel, received five years from the court in Potsdam for throwing two Molotov cocktails through an open window of the family’s apartment in May.

The couple, their young child and two guests escaped unharmed from their apartment in the town of Belzig, near Berlin.

``The court believes that hatred of foreigners was their main motivation for this attack,″ court spokesman Theodor Horstkoetter said. The defendants have a week to appeal.

Politicians and Jewish leaders have urged the courts _ and police, schools and parents _ to come down hard on racism and right-wing ideas as the country looks for ways to stamp out a wave of skinhead attacks against minorities.

On Tuesday, celebrations of the 10th anniversary of German reunification were overshadowed by an attempt the night before to firebomb a synagogue in the western town of Duesseldorf, prompting renewed calls from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Jewish leaders for citizens to stand up to neo-Nazis.

Police forensic experts were scouring the area for clues Thursday that could lead them to who threw three Molotov cocktails at the synagogue Monday.

Wreaths from well-wishers piled up on the building’s steps in a show of solidarity from a city already shocked by a still-unsolved grenade attack in July that seriously injured 10 people, at least six of them Jewish.

In the latest anti-Semitic incidents, police said Thursday they had found a gallows painted above a Star of David adorning the entrance to a Jewish cemetery in Potsdam, and six swastikas were carved into a memorial to a synagogue burnt down by Nazis in the eastern city of Halle.

Also Thursday, a court in the western city of Cologne ruled that Lufthansa German Airlines owed no refund to a group of right-wingers it refused to take to Israel two years ago after Israel said the passengers were neo-Nazis.

Update hourly