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Demonstrators Say They Believe Fire Was Arson

January 20, 1996

LUEBECK, Germany (AP) _ While investigators have yet to prove what caused a fire that killed 10 immigrants, many of the 3,000 people who gathered to remember the victims Saturday said they believe the blaze was deliberately set.

Six children and four adults died in the at a shelter home in this Baltic seaport of 210,000 on Thursday.

``Ninety-eight percent it was a neo-Nazi attack,″ said a man who would identify himself only as Jemal. Born in Turkey, he now lives in Hamburg.

``Ninety-nine percent,″ another man offered as he hurried through the multi-ethnic crowd in the city’s main square.

Investigators finished collecting evidence Saturday on the ground floor of the building, where it has been determined that the fire broke out, said police spokesman Detlef Hardt. Neither arson nor a electrical defect have been ruled out as the cause.

No matter how the fire actually started, Jemal said the German government should be criticized for allowing a segregated society in which hatred of foreigners can grow easily. Asylum-seekers in Germany usually are housed in shelters and cannot have jobs while their cases are being decided _ a process that often can take years.

``In Germany, there are two laws _ one for Germans, one for foreigners,″ he said. ``People must be treated equally.″

About 50 African immigrants gathered in a tight circle in one corner of the square singing, white bands tied around their heads in a show of mourning.

Nearby, a group of Turks chanted, ``Yesterday Solingen, today Luebeck,″ referring to the 1993 neo-Nazi firebombing of a house that killed two Turkish women and three girls in the worst anti-foreigner attack since World War II.

``Why is it that these terrible things only happen where foreigners live?″ asked Mattata Mildun, a Zairian who has lived in Germany six years. ``That is why I think it was an attack.″

On Friday, three suspects were freed after police said they had evidence to support their alibi.

State prosecutors said a police car spotted the men _ one of whom was described as a skinhead _ at a gas station far from the house 20 minutes before the fire broke out. The police had followed the car until being called to the fire.

One of the men, Heiko Patynowski, told Der Spiegel news magazine he and his friends were just driving around when they saw the fire, stopped their car and got out to look.

A police officer later spotted them 100 yards from the house. They were arrested hours later in nearby Mecklenburg and interrogated for seven hours before being released.

``The police were interested like mad to prove we did it,″ Patynowski was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, African immigrants from other German cities continued to stop by an asylum center to offer their condolences to relatives of the deceased.

Jean-Daniel Makodila, whose five children and wife were killed, accepted the visits, but was inconsolable. He sat on a couch in a small room upstairs weeping and clutching a man and a woman sitting beside him.

Four women in traditional African wraps stood outside the door as part of a weeklong mourning period.

Makodila has said he wants his loved ones to be returned to Zaire for burial. The bodies have not yet been released by authorities.

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