Germany: Token sentences in migrant death case

Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

On 12 February 1999, Algerian asylum-seeker Farid Guendoul (alias Omar Ben Noui) died after being chased by 11 youths (see Statewatch vol 9 no 2). After a confrontation with a non-German in a night-club, the gang went on a "foreigner hunt" through the small town of Guben in eastern Germany. They found Farid and his two friends and with the help mobile phones they coordinated their actions and chased them through the city in their car. Terrified by his attackers, Farid jumped through the glass door of a nearby house and severed an artery in his knee. With no help forthcoming, he bled to death within half an hour. Court proceedings against eleven youths started in June 1999 but only three of those standing trial were given minor prison sentences of between two and three years at the conclusion to the trial in November.
After 21 months of court proceedings in the regional court in Cottbus Farid's brothers, who travelled from Algeria, and their lawyer are still in disbelief about the light sentences which judge Joachim Dönitz gave out on 13 November. The sentences, anti-racists and media commentators argue, are a reflection of the past 81 court days during which the defendants humiliated witnesses and ridiculed relatives.
The court proceedings against the eleven youths, between 18 and 21 years old, started on 3 June 1999 and were marked by a string of delaying tactics used by the defence team. The fact that the court case was dealing with racism was pushed to the background because of the charges of manslaughter through culpable negligence and bodily harm, rather than murder. In an interview with the Berliner Morgenpost (7.8.99.) about the death of the Algerian, the mayor from the nearby city of Spremberg, Egon Wochatz, commented: "what on earth was he doing at that time of night in the streets anyway?" He also thought that to avoid further trouble, asylum seekers should stick to the curfew in asylum seekers homes between 10pm and 6am.
The denial of a racist motivation and insistence that the accused were "normal" youths with criminal tendencies characterised the court proceedings and were reflected in judge Dönitz's commentaries. When Marcel Preusche, one of the defendants, was caught destroying the flowers put down in front of a stone commemorating the death of Farid Guendoul, the judge empathised that this was obviously due to "the frustration" he was experiencing because of drawn out court proceedings; he issued a court warning.
Only three of the 11 who were standing trial, Alexander Bode, Daniel Rauscher and Denny Tarnick received prison sentences - of between two and three years. Rauscher and Tarnick were given youth sentences which took account of prior offences, while Bode received a sentence solely on grounds of the murder. Another of those on trial, the self-proclaimed neo-nazi Steffen Henze, was given one and a half years on probation justified on the grounds that the court has "the bring him on the right path without the implementation of the sentence". Six other defendants were sentenced to probation and two got a court warning.
Three of the youths were cleared of manslaughter through culpable negligence because they remained in the car throughout the chase. All of the defendants were sentenced on grounds of bodily harm. The fact that two of them were only given 100 and 200 hours of "community work" was described by lawyer, Christina Clemm, as "a slap in the face for the victims." She is planning to appeal against the clearing of three of the defendants of manslaughter.

taz 14.11.00; Guardian 14.11.00; International Herald Tribune 14.11.00; ZAG no 33 (July?September) 2000

Our work is only possible with your support.
Become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error