31 years after an arson attack on a home for asylum seekers in Saarland, a murder trial began in Koblenz on Wednesday. The 27-year-old asylum seeker Samuel Yeboah from West African Ghana died in 1991 as a result of the flames. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office accuses the 51-year-old defendant in the trial before the State Security Senate of the Higher Regional Court (OLG) Koblenz of having set the fire out of racist sentiment.
The German has been in custody since April 2022. The federal prosecutor's office has brought charges including murder and attempted murder in 20 cases. The deed was done insidiously and for base motives. According to his lawyer Guido Britz, the accused denies the allegations. "The goal of the defense is an acquittal," said the lawyer on the sidelines of the trial. There are still clues that point to other people as the perpetrators.
According to public prosecutor Sophie Gößl, in the general "pogrom atmosphere" with right-wing extremist riots at the beginning of the 1990s, the accused poured petrol on the wooden stairs of the asylum seekers' home in Saarlouis and set it on fire. The then 20-year-old accused was driven by "deep contempt for human beings". The fire spread rapidly on the night of September 19, 1991. In the attic, Samuel Yeboah suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation. He died the same day. According to Gößl, two other residents of the house jumped out of a window and broke bones. 18 other residents could have escaped unharmed.
The federal prosecutor's office re-examined the case in April 2020. A spokeswoman for the OLG Koblenz said: "A witness statement has led to new investigations." The original investigations by the Saarland judiciary had long been discontinued. The Saar police apologized for "deficits in the police work at the time". The jurisdiction of the OLG Koblenz in Rhineland-Palatinate results from a state treaty with the Saarland.