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CRIME

Herbal incense drug Spice banned

The herbal incense mixture Spice, which has become a new favourite smoking drug for young Germans looking for a legal high, will be banned this week, the government announced on Wednesday.

Herbal incense drug Spice banned
Photo:DPA

The production, sale and possession of the herbal mixture will be illegal starting Thursday, the Health Ministry said after successfully activating a rapid inclusion of Spice in the list of banned substances in Germany.

An analysis of the mixture showed it contained a form of a synthetic cannabinoid which works in a similar way to cannabis, but lasts for longer and is felt much more strongly.

“Spice is not harmless, it has to be taken out of circulation quickly,” Health Minister Ulla Schmidt said.

Federal drug policy coordinator Sabine Bätzing said: “The proof has been provided, that the producers of this spice mixture have deliberately added an intoxicating substance and that the sale of the resulting product as harmless incense is clearly a swindle.”

She said smoking Spice was highly risky because apart from anything else, the concentration of the active substance was inconsistent and said she was confident that demand would drop once it had been banned.

Spice has been sold in headshops across Germany, advertised as incense, but with a subtext of knowing that people will smoke it. Consumers have reported hallucinations and euphoria but also fear, nausea and mood swings.

The ban will run for a year and is then intended to be replaced with a lasting law.

CRIME

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

By David COURBET

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