Trial Begins In Foreigner Killings That Woke Up Germany To Neo-Nazi Threat
SCHLESWIG, Germany (AP) _ Two right-wing extremists went on trial today on charges of killing three Turks last November in a firebombing that shocked German authorities into cracking down on neo-Nazi violence.
One suspect, Lars Christiansen, 19, has denied throwing firebombs that killed the two Turkish girls and a Turkish grandmother at an apartment in the north German city of Moelln.
Michael Peters, 25, has admitted his role in the attack. Prosecutors say he led a gang that celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
Both youths are charged with three counts of murder, attempted murder and arson, and could face life in prison.
The firebombing killed 10-year-old Yeliz Arslan, 14-year-old Ayse Yilmaz, and Yeliz’ grandmother, 51-year-old Bahide Arslan.
It was the deadliest neo-Nazi attack since the violence began shortly after German unification in 1990. More than 2,000 far-right attacks were carried out last year, resulting in 17 deaths.
Prosecutors say Peters and Christiansen set fire to a shelter for foreign refugees just after midnight, and half an hour later firebombed the house where the three Turks died.
Between the attacks, according to prosecutors, Peters called police and said ″a house is burning on Ratzeburger Strasse. Heil Hitler 3/8″
He made a similar call to the fire station after he and Christiansen firebombed the second home, prosecutors said.
Christiansen said he became a right-wing extremist in 1988. He listened to neo-Nazi records, wore jackboots and shouted anti-foreigner slogans with other extremists. But he contended he had never hurt anyone and quit the neo-Nazi scene in 1991.
Swastikas and the German imperial flag were found in Christiansen’s apartment after his arrest.
″I decorated my apartment with these things, but that was just a game,″ Christiansen said as Peters looked sourly at the judges.
Christiansen has let his hair grow out and dropped the boots and leather look since his arrest shortly after the Moelln firebombing.
He wore a purple jacket and flannel shirt in court.
Faruk Arslan, father of Yeliz Arslan, and Nazim Arslan, the widower of Bahide Arslan, looked on silently during his testimony.
The trial, expected to last until the end of June, is taking place in Schleswig-Holstein state court in this Baltic port.
Bulletproof glass separated the main courtroom from onlookers and the press. Reporters were searched before entering.
Authorities apparently fear attacks against the accused.