Synagogue arsonists given stiffer terms


BERLIN, October 15 (JTA) — Two young men convicted of attempted arson on the Dusseldorf Synagogue in October 2000 have received increased sentences following an outcry over their initial punishments.

In the new sentences handed down Oct. 10, one year was added to the sentence of Moroccan-born German citizen Khalid Z., age 21, bringing his term to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Belal T., a 20-year-old Palestinian, received 22 months on probation, up from 18 months.

Their full names were withheld because they are considered minors under German law.

The two had said they were driven to the act out of anger over the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Belal T. apologized to the Jewish community of Dusseldorf after his initial release from investigative custody last year. Khalid Z. said in court on Oct. 10 that he wants a similar meeting with local Jewish leaders.

Judge Werner Arendes, in reviewing the sentences, said it had been clearly proven that the two were attempting to burn down the synagogue in Dusseldorf — although, he added, they obviously did not know how to accomplish their goal.

First they threw a stone into the window of the front door, then attempted to throw water bottles filled with gasoline into the building. The front door was damaged in the attack.

The defendants told the court they committed the act out of anger after seeing TV images of a Palestinian child killed in an exchange of gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian forces last year.

During last week’s resentencing, the judge said he could understand their emotions, having seen those images himself. But this was no excuse for the crime, the judge added.

He told the defendants that Jews in Germany had been deeply upset by the attack on the synagogue.

“You have lived long enough in Germany to become familiar with the history of the Jews,” he said.

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