On December 20, 2007, a subway security camera captured the two men as they beat a 76-year-old retired school master for several minutes. The man, who had apparently provoked the attack by telling the young men not to smoke in the station, almost died from extensive head injuries and internal bleeding.
During the attack the two young men, a now 21-year-old German-born Turk and 18-year-old Greek, spit on the man and called him a "shitty German." They then stole his backpack.
At the time of the brutal attack, the suspects were not yet considered legal adults. Their lawyer has requested that the trial be conducted in a closed session. According to juvenile law, both men face a a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The photos of the beating stoked intense debate about how Germany should deal with violent crime committed by youths with immigrant backgrounds.
German news agency DDP reported that the two men, Greek defendant Spyridon L., and German-born Turk Serkan A. were apologetic on the first day of the trial.
"Unfortunately I got aggressive. I'm so sorry," Spyridon L. told the court, adding that he couldn't remember much of what happened after starting to hit the elderly victim. "Normally I'm not the kind of person who hits old people," he said.
The two allegedly consumed 16 beers between them that night, and Serkan A. also admitted to doing cocaine before meeting with his friend.
"I have nothing against Germans," Spyridon L. said. "I just do stupid things when I'm drunk."
Serkan A.'s lawyer read a statement for the defendant that included an apology. "I'm so sorry for the whole affair," he said.