Five young men confessed to a arson attack on a Roman family in southern Germany last year, with the suspect apologizing for the action on the first day of the trial on Monday.
The suspects, who were between 17 and 20 years old at the time of the attack, have been charged with attempted murder.
The attack took place in May 2019 in the Erbach district where Roman families from France lived in a camp in a field.
The suspects first put up a sign that read “not accepted” and then place dead swans in the area where the family lives, reports the DPA news agency.
They then threw a burning torch on the family camp, almost losing the vehicle where a woman and her nine-month-old child slept. Other family members took the torch off, with the woman and baby fleeing unscathed, reported the local SWR public broadcaster.
The accused is ‘very ashamed’
The five young men, all German citizens, apologized for their actions before the court in the southern city of Ulm.
“I am very ashamed of my actions,” one of the defendants told the court.
“We are stupid and don’t think about the consequences,” said the other defendant. The group said they did not intend to harm anyone.
The public prosecutor’s office in Stuttgart took over the case because of a potential right-wing extremist background, and came to the conclusion that the defendants were motivated by xenophobic and anti-Roman sentiments.
Some pushed back against racism, with the defendant telling the court: “I am not a Nazi,” according to the DPA.
Before the start of the trial, protesters gathered outside to protest racism.
“The increasing” anti-Gypsy “in Germany and in Europe is very alarming,” said Daniel Strauss of the German National Association of Sinti and Rome.
The trial was held at the venue in Ulm rather than the district court building in an effort to comply with social distance measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. Decisions in this case are expected in September.