A German court gave heavy prison sentences to two men and a woman on Thursday for carrying out an arson attack against a shelter for refugees in August that raised concerns about xenophobia as there was an influx of refugees into Germany.
Hannover’s regional court sentenced a 31-year-old man to eight years in prison for throwing a firebomb through a window into the room of a Zimbabwean family at the shelter in the town of Salzhemmendorf.
A 25-year-old volunteer fireman was sentenced to seven years in prison as a 24-year-old woman who drove the men to the site received a prison sentence of four-and-a-half years.
According to a German news agency, presiding judge Wolfgang Rosenbusch said that although nobody was injured, each of them accepted the possibility that people might die in the attack on Aug. 28.
"I fear that this was an attempt to send a signal because of the current problem that many attacks are taking place," defence lawyer Roman von Alvensleben said.
The trio admitted carrying out the attack but deny they were politically motivated. However, the judge said that mobile phone analysis clearly revealed they shared far-right attitudes.
"All three were members of a mobile messaging group called 'Garage Swastika'," a court spokesman said.
One of the accused called himself "the new Adolf" and the woman bragged she had taught her two-year old son how to say "Heil Hitler," he said.
There have been more than 1,200 attacks on refugee hostels in Germany over the past year in which over a million refugees have arrived.
Arrests have been relatively rare but Justice Minister Heiko Maas and ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states have vowed to curb far-right violence by setting up a special investigative office and improving data compilation.
Germany has taken in an enormous influx of refugees fleeing conditions of war and poverty in their countries. This year the country accepted around a million refugees.