German judge's word choice causes retrial of arson incident against asylum-seekers' shelter
The trial of the German neo-Nazi sentenced last year to nine and a half years in prison for committing arson against an asylum-seekers' shelter and other crimes must be redone. The Federal Court in Karlsruhe overturned the first-instance verdict of the state court and published its decision on 21 June.
Maik Schneider, a 31-year-old member of the ultra-right National Democratic Party (NPD), was sentenced last year for committing an arson attack in August 2015 during which a gymnasium that as meant to become an asylum-seekers' shelter burned down in the town of Nauen near Berlin. Police assessed the damage caused at EUR 3.5 million.
The first-instance court in Potsdam must now rehear the case. The Federal Court justified its decision to overturn the first-instance verdict and order a retrial by observing that one of the judges in the first-instance hearing had called Schneider's testimony about his actions "bullshit".
That remark, according to the appeals court, justifies Schneider's belief that the panel of judges hearing his case was not impartial. He admitted to setting the building on fire during that hearing.
However, throughout his testimony, he kept referring to the destruction of the building as an "accident". He claims his intent had just been to cause smoke damage to the sports hall as an expression of his disagreement with the migration policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Schneider denied being motivated by xenophobia. According to the first-instance court, however, the prosecution managed to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the crime was motivated by the perpetrator's hatred of foreigners and ultra-right opinions.
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