Trial begins of young refugees who ‘tried to set homeless man on fire’

A group of six young refugees went on trial for attempted murder on Tuesday, after one of them tried to set fire to a homeless man in a Berlin U-Bahn station on Christmas Eve.

Trial begins of young refugees who 'tried to set homeless man on fire'
The incident occurred at Schönleinstraße station in Kreuzberg. Photo: DPA

At the start of the trial in Berlin, the 21-year-old main defendant wiped away tears as the prosecution read out the charge of attempted murder.

The six other defendants, between the ages of 16 and 21, sat motionless as the prosecution charged that they had “malevolently and cruelly” attempted to kill a man.

On Christmas Eve the seven young men, six of whom are refugees from Syria, one of whom is from Libya, were caught on CCTV camera as the 21-year-old lit a tissue and placed it directly next to the 37-year-old Polish man’s head as he slept on a bench in a Berlin underground station.

The group then all ran into an underground train and left the scene.

The Polish man had a cover over his head and was using his rucksack as a pillow. Both rucksack and cover caught light and started to burn.

“Within seconds a huge fire could have broken out,” prosecutor Martin Glage told journalists during a pause in the proceedings. He added that tests done by investigators proved that the burning tissue had the potential to set the man's clothing alight.

Luckily passengers who got out of the train were able to put out the flames.

Six of the seven young men are now charged with attempted murder, while the seventh is accused of denial of help.

Glage accused the youths of accepting that their actions could have led to the 37-year-old “tortuously burning”. But he conceded to journalists that he did not believe that the youths expected their actions to lead to the man’s death, and said he was not calling for life sentences.

The 21-year-old’s lawyer said it was a “misrepresentation” to say that his client had freely accepted that the victim could die.

The young men are yet to make statements to the court. But the 21-year-old told police during interrogations that, while he did light the tissue, he did not know what happened to it.

In recent months there have been similar arson attacks on homeless people. In Hamburg a 49-year-old homeless man’s sleeping bag was set alight in April. In February meanwhile, the sleeping area of two homeless men was set on fire in a parking lot, also in the port city.


Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

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In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

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