HALLE, Germany — A court convicted three neo-Nazis of beating an African immigrant to death and handed down tough prison sentences Wednesday in an attempt to signal that a "long chain of attacks" on foreigners in Germany must stop.
The state court sentenced Enrico Hilprecht, 24, to the maximum of life in prison. His two 16-year-old co-defendants were each given sentences of nine years--one year less than the maximum allowed for juveniles.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called the decision "a suitable verdict for a heinous crime."
The case offered a glimpse into Germany's violent skinhead scene: Fueled by beer and illegal racist rock music, it directs rage at foreigners and often revolves around the decaying communist-era housing developments that dot the country's east.
It was in a park in the eastern city of Dessau that the three men brutally beat and kicked 39-year-old Alberto Adriano in the head June 11. Adriano died three days later, leaving behind a wife and three children.
Reading the verdict Wednesday, Judge Albrecht Hennig said the court concluded that the three defendants killed Adriano solely because of his skin color.
"It was the latest in the long chain of attacks to which we must put an end," Hennig said.
The defendants looked stone-faced as the verdict and sentences were read. One of the 16-year-olds, who had grinned at one point during the reading of the indictment last week, briefly blinked away tears. Defense lawyers said they were considering whether to appeal.