BERLIN Three ultra-rightists were jailed for up to eight years in Germany on Thursday for a petrol bomb attack on a refugee hostel in August that raised concern about violent xenophobia in response to an influx of migrants.
There have been more than 1,200 attacks on migrant hostels in Germany over the past year in which over a million asylum-seekers have arrived and justice authorities aim to set up a special office to tackle far-right violence.
A court in Hanover sentenced a 31-year-old man to eight years behind bars and his accomplice, a volunteer fireman who later helped extinguish the blaze, to seven years. A 24-year-old woman who drove the getaway car got four years and six months.
The sentences were close to what prosecutors had demanded over the assault on the hostel in the northern town of Salzhemmendorf, in which no one was injured.
"I fear that this was an attempt to send a signal because of the current problem that many attacks are taking place," said defence lawyer Roman von Alvensleben.
The trio admitted carrying out the attack but denied they were politically motivated. However, the judge said mobile phone analysis clearly showed they shared far-right attitudes.
"All three were members of a mobile messaging group called 'Garage Swastika'," a court spokesman said. One of the accused called himself "the new Adolf" and the woman bragged she had taught her two-year old son how to say "Heil Hitler", he said.
More than 200 attacks on migrant hostels have occurred since the start of this year with right-wing extremists responsible for almost all of them, police say.
Arrests have been relatively rare, however, and Justice minister Heiko Maas and ministers from Germany's 16 federal states have vowed to tackle rightist radicalism by creating a special investigative office and improving data compilation.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Thorsten Severin; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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