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Bern aggressors receive long prison terms

The court's president (left) showed the four accused little leniency


Four young men who attacked a teacher in Bern in May 2003 have been given stiff jail sentences of up to 11 years.

The attack, which left the victim in a coma for weeks, caused an outcry among locals, who demonstrated against violence on the streets a few days later.

The eldest of the accused, a 23-year-old Swiss, was given an 11-year prison sentence. Two other Swiss citizens received jail terms of nine and six-and-a-half years.

The fourth, a 20-year-old Spaniard, was sentenced to four years in a correctional centre.

The two main accused were found guilty of attempted murder and robbery with serious bodily harm, as was the Spaniard. The remaining accused was only convicted for robbery with serious bodily harm.

Harsh sentences

Handing down its verdict, the court followed the prosecutor’s request for harsh sentences ranging from nine to 12 years imprisonment. The defence had called for terms in a correctional centre.

A youth court had already sentenced three other aggressors.

The attack happened on May 11 2003. A group of seven young men attacked a cyclist at 2am on a street in Bern’s old town, pulling him off his bike and kicking within an inch of his life.

Some members of the gang, with blood on their shoes and clothes, then went to a local bar to celebrate.

The victim, a 42-year-old historian, lay in a coma for weeks. He is still suffering from the effects of the attack.

Earlier, the same group had attacked and beaten a pedestrian.

Recent precedent

Last month, two men received lengthy jail sentences for stabbing and beating to death an 18-year-old at a railway station in western Switzerland.

A local court found a 22-year-old Portuguese and a 25-year-old French-Algerian guilty of murdering the teenager at Yverdon-les-Bains station on June 1, 2003.

They received jail terms of 20 years and 19 years respectively. Two minors who were also involved in the assault had already been sentenced.

The four had attempted to steal the teenager’s CD-player. A fight broke out and the victim was savagely beaten and stabbed with his own knife. He died a few days later in Lausanne University Hospital.

The court heard that the pair had acted on a "trivial and odious motive", namely that they had sought revenge after one of their companions was slightly injured by the victim as he tried to defend himself.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

It has been widely reported that youth violence in Switzerland is on the rise and that delinquents are getting ever younger and more vicious.

But according to the Swiss Dictionary on Social Politics (2002), research on the subject does not confirm this.

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