Halle, Germany (AP) -- Three neo-Nazis were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal beating of a Mozambican man -- a crime that focused national attention on a rising wave of violence against foreigners in Germany.
The state court in Halle sentenced Enrico Hilprecht, 24, to the maximum of life in prison for the brutal attack. His two 16-year-old co-defendants, Christian Richter and Frank Miethbauer, were each given sentences of nine years, one year less than the maximum allowed for juveniles.
Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentences for all three, charging they had acted out of hatred for foreigners when they went after Alberto Adriano on June 11, kicking and beating him so brutally that he died from his injuries three days later.
Reading the verdict, Judge Albrecht Hennig said the court came to the conclusion that the three killed Adriano solely because of the color of his skin.
"It was the latest in the long chain of attacks to which we must put an end," Hennig said.
The defendants looked stone-faced as the verdict and sentences were read. Richter, who had grinned at one point during the reading of the indictment last week, briefly appeared to blink away tears.
Adriano's widow, Angelika, was not in court for the verdict. She decided to stay away after receiving death threats, said Razak Minhel, a liaison with the foreign community in the east German city of Dessau, where she lives with the couple's three children.
"She simply is afraid," Minhel said.
Dessau police said they have increased patrols around the family's home. Adriano's widow moved last weekend, and her whereabouts are being kept secret.
The defense had pleaded for shorter jail terms on charges of manslaughter or deadly assault, saying prosecutors had failed to prove that the attackers intended to kill Adriano when they attacked him in a Dessau park.
Adriano was walking home when the three set upon him, shouting racist abuse. They stripped him after he stopped moving. He died three days later, leaving behind a wife and three young sons.
Defense lawyer Sabine Grunow said all of the accused expressed regret in brief closing statements Friday after the four-day trial, which was closed to the public because it involved juveniles.
Adriano came to then-East Germany from Mozambique in the 1980s under a socialist worker exchange program and remained after unification, working in a meatpacking plant. His death was one of three this year blamed on extreme-right attacks in Germany, a wave of violence that has prompted outrage and dismay among political leaders.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has made the fight against neo-Nazi violence one of the focal points of his two-week tour through Germany's depressed former communist eastern states, where recent attacks on foreigners have been concentrated.
He was to lay a wreath at a a memorial marking the site where Adriano was beaten during a visit to Dessau on Thursday, government spokeswoman Charima Reinhardt said.
In a television interview Wednesday, Schroeder reiterated his call for a "triad" approach: toughness by police and the courts against perpetrators, better employment and training prospects for the "young hangers-on" to pull them out of the neo-Nazi scene and "societal engagement ... to stand up for what's right."
"This is not just an east German problem, even if there are also especially dangerous characteristics that have to be fought decisively," he said on ARD television.