More than thirty years after the death of an asylum seeker in the fire of a refugee home, an extreme right activist has been arrested for this crime which shocked Germany in the aftermath of Reunification.
A wave of xenophobic violence had targeted foreigners in several regions of the country after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
On September 19, 1991, fire broke out in a home for asylum seekers in Sarrelouis, a town of 35,000 inhabitants located near the French border.
A 27-year-old Ghanaian national, Samuel Yeboah, had died of his burns and inhalation of toxic fumes.
A well-known figure in the local neo-Nazi scene
In 2020, new clues led to a reopening of the investigation and, on Monday, the federal prosecutor's office in charge of the most sensitive cases finally announced the arrest of the main suspect, a well-known figure in the local neo-Nazi scene, says the weekly
Peter S. is "strongly suspected of murder, attempted murder of 20 people and arson causing death", according to a press release from the prosecution.
The prosecutors accuse him of having, by means of a can of gasoline, set fire to the establishment which then housed 21 people and of having acted because of his “extreme right and racist convictions”.
The fire had spread from the stairwell to the entire building.
Two residents were injured by jumping out of the window.
Samuel Yeboah had died the very day of the tragedy.
Mea culpa from the police
Peter S. had been suspected from the start, without being prosecuted for lack of sufficient evidence.
Police issued their mea culpa on Monday, acknowledging flaws in the investigation.
"I apologize on behalf of the Land Police Presidency," Saarland Police Chief Norbert Rupp said, saying "deficits in police work at the time clearly led to the suspension of investigation ".
The rise of xenophobia was illustrated in particular by racist riots in Hoyerswerda, a town in the former East Germany, in September 1991, during which around 500 people attacked a refugee home with Molotov cocktails and projectiles. , injuring dozens.
However, according to the prosecution, the suspect had spent the evening of the crime talking about the violence in a restaurant in Saarlouis with other "right-wing extremists".
"The participants in the discussion made it clear that they would approve of such attacks being carried out in Saarlouis", further details the prosecution.
It was after the restaurant closed that Peter S. went, according to the prosecution, to set fire to the accommodation center.
According to investigators, this 50-year-old would have participated in 1996 in a far-right demonstration in which were present future members of the neo-Nazi group NSU, responsible for a dozen assassinations in the 2000s, mainly of foreigners.
For decades, left-wing activists and associations had put pressure on the authorities to solve the death of Samuel Yeboah, asking in particular that the attack be recognized as a political crime.
Several commemorative events have taken place in recent years to keep this memory alive.
Since last September, the city of Saarlouis, long reluctant, has accepted the proposal of anti-racist associations to organize an annual demonstration in memory of the killed refugee.
A memorial and commemorative plaque at the scene of the crime from the time may soon be erected.
“This act is part of a series of racist attacks committed at the time in Saarland.
In the district of Saarlouis alone, this was already the fifth attack on a reception center for refugees since 1987,” explained the anti-racist foundation Amadeu Antonio.
In November 1992, in the town of Mölln, in the east of the country, two far-right militants set fire to the houses of two Turkish families, causing the death of a woman and two girls.
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