The 17-year-old was sentenced to two weeks of community service and juvenile detention on Tuesday in Berlin’s regional court, receiving a lighter sentence because he wasn’t directly involved in assaulting the homeless man
He admitted that when he saw the man on fire, he didn’t intervene. The other suspects, six boys and men between the ages of 16 and 21, were all born in Libya and Syria, and will face attempted murder charges when their trial resumes on Friday.
The only one among them being tried as an adult is the 21-year-old, who faces three years in prison if found guilty.
On Christmas Day 2016 the homeless Polish national was sleeping on a bench at the Schönleinstraße subway station when the group allegedly lit flammable objects and waved them at his head.
Bystanders exiting the subway came to his aid to put out the flames, and though the 37-year-old emerged without injury, his belongings were destroyed in the course of the attack.
There was a wave of outrage aimed at immigrants following the brutal attack, with commenters on online forums calling for the group to be deported immediately. The fact that some of the attackers have criminal records further exacerbated the backlash.
Timing didn’t help matters either, as the attack occurred two weeks after 12 people were killed and 50 injured when Anis Amri, a Tunisian asylum seeker, drove a truck in patrons at Berlin’s Christmas market.
Conservative German official Barbara John told German newspaper Berliner Zeitung, "The suspects will hopefully be put on trial and then found guilty … It would be good if we could then get rid of them. Once this sort of thing starts, where does it end?" according to Deutsche Welle.
For more than 20 years, John served as Berlin’s commissioner for foreigners and migrants.