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Punches, insults - and a victim marked for life

Jörg Schröder* sounds bitter on the phone: "I'm practically blind, I can only see light and dark in my right eye.

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Punches, insults - and a victim marked for life

Jörg Schröder* sounds bitter on the phone: "I'm practically blind, I can only see light and dark in my right eye. The life of the perpetrator, on the other hand, just goes on.” Schröder, who actually has a different name, doesn't want to just accept that. A court has been hearing for the second time this week about a brutal attack that took place in Hamburg's Mönckebergstrasse in September 2021.

At that time, Jörg Schröder stood in front of Saturn with other comrades-in-arms, they held a vigil and waved Israel flags, with posters demanding a clear stance against anti-Semitism. Schröder has Jewish roots, and the fight against hatred of Israel and Jews is important to him. Suddenly three teenagers, two boys and a girl, approached the group.

The boys shouted "Fuck Israel" and "Free Palestine" and insulted the vigil participants, Schröder testified in this week's appeal proceedings. He is a joint plaintiff, the verdict could already come on Friday.

Then the descriptions of those involved diverge: Schröder said he had confronted the group and asked what that was about. The defense, on the other hand, argues that Schröder approached the group aggressively and that everything that followed was "self-defence". What happens afterwards is undisputed: Jörg Schröder is brutally beaten down. The devastating record: broken cheekbones, broken glasses pierced the eye, and a complicated injury arose.

In August 2022, the court announced its verdict against the accused, two brothers with Syrian roots, aged 15 and 17 at the time of the crime. The 17-year-old defendant, who struck, was sentenced to a youth sentence of one year and four months for aggravated bodily harm combined with insult, the execution of which was suspended on probation. Probation requirements include community service to earn compensation and anti-violence training.

The 15-year-old defendant was found guilty of insulting him. According to the court, he was given educational instructions on how to deal with the crime in talks with the juvenile court and to do community work to obtain compensation for the damage.

As the starting point of the confrontation, the court found that the accused had a "general derogatory attitude towards Israel, people from Israel and people who show solidarity with Israel," according to a court spokesman at the time.

Both sides appealed the verdict. The public prosecutor feels the sentence is too mild, the defense sees a self-defense situation. The trial against the 17-year-old accused is now being reopened, and the trial is again closed to the public because of his youth.

Schröder has not been able to work to this day and is concerned about slipping into poverty in old age. In 2019 he fell ill, doctors diagnosed burnout. Schröder received a so-called reduced earning capacity pension - but this was limited to November 2022. "I wanted to work full time again," says Schröder, "but after the fact it's out of the question."

The pension fund converted his temporary disability pension into a permanent one. He now has 1,170 euros a month, "with that I can hardly make a living in view of the increased prices and inflation." His regular pension will now also be lower.

Hamburg's Anti-Semitism Commissioner Stefan Hensel accompanied the process for a long time, he says: "I find it shameful that the victim suffered such massive physical damage and now, it seems, is also suffering extreme financial damage." Hensel is currently organizing one Fundraising campaign, under the supervision of a lawyer, private money should be collected for the victim.

For the future, he would like the anti-Semitism officers to be more closely involved in proceedings of this type. At the request of the victim, Hensel wanted to take part in the first proceedings as an observer. But this was forbidden by the court, citing legal concerns. "The legal regulation is extremely rigid at this point," said a court spokeswoman at the time.

Juvenile defendants are particularly vulnerable by law, the presence of observers can be intimidating and run counter to the "educational mandate". In exceptional cases, the judge can admit people who are not involved in the process – mostly for training purposes.

Hensel is now trying to ensure that the procedural rules in juvenile criminal law are supplemented so that officers who deal with the topics of anti-Semitism, racism or violence against women have better access. "The matter would have to be clarified at the conference of justice ministers, not much has happened yet," says Hensel. But he is in talks with the judiciary.

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