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CRIME

Main culprit in fire attack on homeless man gets two years’ jail

The main perpetrator behind a fire attack on a sleeping homeless man in Berlin last Christmas Eve was sentenced on Tuesday to two years and nine months in prison.

Main culprit in fire attack on homeless man gets two years' jail
Schönleinstraße station, where the attack took place. Photo: DPA.

The 21-year-old man was convicted on Tuesday of attempting to cause grievous bodily for lighting a fire next to a sleeping homeless man in Berlin on Christmas Eve last year.

Six other refugees who were with him at the time were also convicted of charges of either assisting in the crime, or of failing to assist the homeless man.

The group of young men from either Syria or Libya had seen the homeless man sleeping on a bench at an U-Bahn train station in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. The 21-year-old then lit a tissue and placed it directly next to the 37-year-old Polish man's head.

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

As the group fled the scene, passengers who got out of a train were able to put out the flames, and the homeless man remained unharmed.

Prosecutors had sought to charge six of the seven defendants with attempted murder, but the court instead decided on a lighter conviction of attempted grievous bodily harm for the 21-year-old.

The main suspect had argued in court that he lit the tissue on fire and put it by the victim “only to startle him with a small fire.” His companions argued that they had nothing to do with the crime.

Three 17- to 18-year-olds from the group were sentenced on Tuesday to eight months of probation for assisting the crime, while a 16- and 19-year-old were given four weeks detention as well as community service for failing to help the homeless man.

The seventh member of the group had previously been sentenced to two weeks of youth detention for not helping the victim.

The case rocked Germany at the time, with clips from CCTV camera footage released to help catch the culprits.

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.

CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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