Five Vietnamese go on trial in Germany
Five Vietnamese on trial in Germany over restaurant massacre
STADE, Germany, Aug 27, 2007 (AFP) - Five Vietnamese men went on trial here Monday over the massacre of seven people in a Chinese restaurant in February in what prosecutors called a "maelstrom" of violence.
Three of the men are facing murder charges in a case that shocked the sleepy northern town of Sittensen near Hamburg. The other two are accused of aggravated armed robbery and incitement to murder.
State prosecutors believe the suspects wanted to rob the Lin Yue restaurant but that the hold-up turned into a bloodbath when one of the men's mask slipped from his face and he opened fire in a panic.
The owners of the establishment -- a Hong Kong Chinese couple known to their customers as Danny and Anny who held British passports -- and five employees were found tied up, beaten and shot in the restaurant.
Six of the victims -- three men and three women -- died at the scene while another man succumbed to his gunshot wounds the next day.
Only the two-year-old daughter of the owners survived the carnage. She was found unharmed.
The prosecution says that the suspects removed cash and mobile phones from the restaurant, supporting their theory that it was a robbery rather than a settling of scores within the Chinese underworld as initially speculated.
Police have also said that there is no history of Chinese organised crime activity in the region around Sittensen.
The Vietnamese suspects were brought into court in handcuffs and leg irons on Monday and shielded their faces from the many media cameras present.
One of the men occasionally worked at the thriving restaurant which the couple had opened in 1997 and prosecutors believe his insider knowledge was crucial to the planning of the crime.
The court is expected to hear testimony from some 40 witnesses and the trial, which was described by the presiding judge as unusual for Germany, is likely to carry on into next year.
The judge on Monday postponed the case until September 11.
The court will hear that traces of the victims' blood were found on the clothing of two of the suspects, aged 31 and 33, who were arrested near Bremen about 12 hours after the shootings.
A lawyer for one of them has told the press that his client "has nothing to do with this thing and neither has his friend."
The horrifying scene at the restaurant was discovered by the husband of a waitress when he went to pick up his wife in the early hours of February 5.
Hers was among the bodies in the blood-splattered restaurant.
The other victims were a waitress of Malaysian origin, a Thai man, a 57-year-old chef from Hong Kong and two Vietnamese who worked in the restaurant -- a 38-year-old waitress and a 32-year-old kitchen hand.
Eighteen days have been set aside for the trial, although they will not run consecutively.
That would produce a verdict in mid-November but court spokesman Bjoern Kaufert said he believed the trial might continue into next year because of the complicated nature of the charges.
The grim memory of the murders at the Lin Yue restaurant resurfaced this month in the mafia-style shootings of six Italians outside a restaurant in the western German city of Duisburg.
Authorities have linked that case to an Italian underworld feud, with the Italian government pointing a finger at the feared 'Ndrangheta crime clan from the southern Italian region of Calabria.
Subject: German news