Antigypsy attack near Ulm: more dangerous than the incendiary device

Two men were convicted of trying to set fire to a Roma family’s trailer. The verdict is mild, but the accessory prosecution is nevertheless satisfied.

A handcuffed defendant in the courtroom is now on parole Photo: Stefan Puchner / dpa

KARLSRUHE taz | Nothing is left of the murder allegation against five neo-Nazis, and yet Daniel Strauss, state chairman of the Association of Sinti and Roma, says: The probationary sentences, which at first glance seem mild, have strengthened his confidence in the rule of law. Because as far as he knows, this is the first ever verdict for expelling Sinti or Roma in Germany.

The Ulm regional court has sentenced five young men to suspended sentences of between ten months and one year and four months. They confessed to having thrown a wax torch from a car at night into the warehouse of 18 caravans of a French Roma family who had rented a campsite in the village of Erbach-Dellmensingen. The court followed an appraiser’s assessment that the incendiary device was not life-threatening and dropped the murder charge.

But in essence, the trial was not about the danger of the torch: the court wanted to name and punish the perpetrators’ obviously antiziganistic motives. They had already detonated firecrackers and placed a dead swan in front of the camp. The juvenile criminal division of the Ulm Regional Court therefore found that the young men had committed the crimes for “racist, xenophobic and antigypsy motives”. “They wanted to create a climate of fear and horror in order to drive the Roma family out”. You are convicted in 45 cases of complete coercion.

The defendants did not even attempt to cover up their motives. They showed themselves on cell phone photos with a Nazi salute and Reich flags. Apparently, those around them found nothing unusual about it, as the defendants freely admitted. “If you go to the pictures on the cell phone, you could put something in every second person in the village,” said one of the defendants in the trial. The parents also left their children’s racist SMS messages unchallenged.

Fight prejudice

In juvenile criminal law, it is about bringing about a change in the accused, emphasizes Mehmet Daimagüler, who represented the interests of the victims in the process as a joint plaintiff. He does not believe that imprisonment would make the defendants better people. He therefore remained in his pleading under the demands of the public prosecutor and is now satisfied with the verdict.

After all, in the eyes of the court, one of the defendants credibly broke away from right-wing extremism after the fact. At least in the closing words, all five men regret their act and some of them have already voluntarily paid 5,000 euros for offender-victim compensation. In the end, however, says Daimagüler, one cannot look into the heads of the accused.

What remains is the attempt to clarify. Even before the incident, the regional association of Sinti and Roma, together with the city of Ulm and other partners, planned an advice center in Ulm’s old town. Now the branch of the regional association is to take on another task: political education work to combat prejudice.

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