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German Kid Death May Be Hate Crime

November 27, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ Prosecutors in an alleged hate crime case that has outraged Germans said Sunday they had found no evidence that three suspects in the 1997 drowning of a 6-year-old boy in a swimming pool had neo-Nazi ties.

Meanwhile, the German mother of Joseph Kantelberg-Abdulla, whose father is an Iraqi, gave an emotional interview on German television describing the racial harassment the family has endured.

Media reports citing new witness statements collected by the family say Joseph was tortured, drugged and beaten by a group of about 50 neo-Nazis in the small town of Sebnitz near the Czech border. The neo-Nazis then threw him into the public pool where he drowned, witnesses said.

According to Bild newspaper, the boy cried for help, but more than 200 adults including the pool attendant did nothing to help.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in an interview Saturday in Bild newspaper that the case ``would be among the most sickening things that have recently happened in Germany″ if the allegations prove true.

Police closed the case as an accident in 1998, but authorities in Saxony state reopened the investigation and last week arrested two men and a woman, aged 20 to 25, on suspicion of murder.

However, prosecutors in Dresden said Sunday they had found no evidence that the suspects had far-right links. The suspects have not been charged.

The story has dominated Germany’s media for days as civic leaders try to combat a surge in far-right attacks this year.

Joseph’s mother, Renate Kantelberg-Abdulla, spoke Sunday on a popular TV talk show and was due to meet Schroeder in Berlin on Monday.

She described an atmosphere of racism and intimidation against her family in Sebnitz, where her husband opened a pharmacy several years ago.

``Right from the start, people were saying: Don’t go to that foreigner’s pharmacy,″ she said.

Drawn by media attention to the case, a horde of neo-Nazis gathered in front of the pharmacy two days ago singing Nazi songs, and a young man drove by shouting ``I’ll kill you, you’re next″ at her husband, Kantelberg-Abdulla said.

Experts with the Lower Saxony Criminological Institute who reviewed witness statements, police reports and autopsy records at the family’s request accused the authorities of investigating the case with ``a lack of interest and professionalism.″ They concluded that there was a climate of intimidation against the family in the town.

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