Three skinheads to face murder charges in death of African immigrant

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BERLIN - A German court on Wednesday ordered a trial on murder charges for three skinheads accused of beating and kicking an African immigrant to death.

Frank Miethbauer and Christian Richter, both 16, and Enrico Hilprecht, 24, were charged in the June 11 attack on Alberto Adriano, a 39-year-old immigrant from Mozambique who worked in a slaughterhouse in the east German city of Dessau.

Prosecutors say the three had been parading drunk through the streets after midnight shouting neo-Nazi slogans when they came across Adriano in a city park.

''What do you want here in Germany?'' one of them yelled before they knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the head with heavy boots, prosecutors say.

After Adriano lost consciousness, the three pulled his clothes off to humiliate him further, prosecutors say. Adriano, who came to what was then communist East Germany in the 1980s as a contract worker and remained after the reunification of Germany, died three days later.

The killing is part of a recent outbreak of hate crimes that has German leaders scrambling to rally citizens, local officials and courts against extremism. Some conservative opposition politicians have suggested speeding up proceedings against neo-Nazi suspects and expelling extremists from civil service jobs - including police officers.

But Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's spokesman said Wednesday that existing laws, which make public use of Nazi symbols and slogans a crime, were enough.

''The point is to keep a cool head,'' Uwe-Karsten Heye said. ''The rightist hoodlums and murderous gangs are clearly a challenge for our law-based state, but it's not too much to handle.''

Schroeder this week interrupted his vacation in Spain to call for ''the full force of the law'' to thwart far-right violence. The government has also vowed to fight neo-Nazis sites on the Internet, while pointing out that most are registered outside of Germany.

Reports this week that a German army staff sergeant had applied for the Web address added to pressure on officials. According to Wednesday's Bild tabloid, the 28-year-old, identified only as Ralf K., denied all charges when questioned by his superior officers.

A Defense Ministry spokesman called the incident an isolated case. Reports of extreme-right activity in the military have been declining since 1998, spokesman Wolfgang Fett said.

In the slain Mozambican's case, federal prosecutors had sought murder charges last month. The charges were approved Wednesday by the state court in Naumburg, with the trial to begin Aug. 22.

The two 16-year-olds will be tried as juveniles, meaning a maximum sentence upon conviction of 10 years. The 24-year-old could get up to 15 years in prison.

The first neo-Nazi killing in years was recorded in 1999, and three have occurred so far this year: In addition to Adriano, two homeless men were beaten and kicked to death last month by neo-Nazis in northern Germany.

Calls to get tough on violence against foreigners have mounted in the two weeks since an explosion at a Duesseldorf train station injured 10 recent immigrants, six of them Jewish. Police have not yet offered a motive for the bombing, however.


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