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German Court Convicts Soccer Fans

November 9, 1999

ESSEN, Germany (AP) _ Four soccer hooligans were convicted today of the near-fatal beating of a French police officer at last year’s World Cup and were given sentences ranging from 3 1/2 to 10 years in prison.

Andre Zawacki, 28, was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 10 years. Prosecutors accused him of causing the most serious injuries to the French officer, Daniel Nivel, by beating him on the head with a metal rod.

Tobias Reifschlaeger, 25, Frank Renger, 31, and Christopher Rauch, 24, were each convicted of causing serious bodily harm and given sentences of six, five and 3 1/2, respectively.

Nivel was in court along with his wife, Lorette, and one of their two sons for the verdict.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 14 years for Zawacki and 6-8 years for the others, while defense attorneys requested leniency because of their inebriated state.

Rauch was the only one of the four who had denied any involvement in the sidewalk attack on June 21, 1998, in Lens, France, where the German team was playing Yugoslavia.

The other three admitted participating in the beating, but not with the severity the prosecution claimed. They also apologized to Nivel’s family during the trial.

Hundreds of German hooligans were in Lens for the sold-out match between Germany and Yugoslavia. Despite heavy police security, the situation became chaotic after the game ended in a 2-2 draw. As French officers sought to push back the hooligans, one group slipped into a side street where Nivel was posted with two other police.

According to the indictment, someone shouted ``Get the cops,″ and the hooligans surrounded Nivel while the other officers fled.

The next day, a photo of Nivel lying unconscious in a pool of blood hit newspapers around the world, casting a pall over the rest of the games.

The beating, which lasted only a minute, left the 44-year-old Nivel blind in one eye, speech-impaired and with difficulties concentrating, according to his lawyer, Harald Wostry, who has attended the trial.

Another German suspect, 28-year-old Markus Warnecke, was arrested in France and faces a trial there.

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