Immigrants riled after murder sentence

A protest group has formed in memory of Noureddine Hanine, the 32-year-old family man who was beaten to death at an Amager pub, after Hanine's 18-year-old white Danish assailant received a four-month prison sentence for the killing

Tensions are mounting in the city's non-Western immigrant community following Copenhagen Municipal Court's recent sentence of an 18-year-old white Danish man to four months in prison for punching Moroccan immigrant Nourreddine Hanini so violently with his fists that Hanini died of his injuries.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen has become a particular target for the group's frustrations, due to her failure to make any public statement about the leniency of the Hanini killer's sentence, despite her very vocal engagement in the trial of two Turkish cousins recently convicted in the 2003 stabbing death of Italian tourist Antonio Curra.

"When I saw the verdict in the Hanini case, I though it was an ugly signal to send the rest of society - bad for immigration. Many immigrants, especially Moroccans, feel that this sentence came about because the victim was an immigrant and the defendants were Danes. And what's so damaging to integration is people going around with ideas like that," said Anoir Hassouni, a spokesman for the Initiative Group for Nourredine Hanini.

According to Hassouni, the group is made up of organisations and private citizens from central Nørrebro, Østerbro and the city's predominantly immigrant northwest quarter. The group just sent an open letter to Justice Minister Espersen to protest the sentence.

"A lot of political signals and declarations came out when Antonio Curra was murdered. This time around, they (politicians) haven't made a peep. I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not going to comment on the verdict, but I recognise the signal. Unfortunately, a lot of people believe there's a difference between black and white, and a lot of people have the impression that Lene Espersen isn't a justice minister for them, but only for a part of the population. Meanwhile, a family has been left behind feeling like second-class citizens," said Anoir Hassouni, who was responsible for organising a local vigil after the Curra killing.

Nourredini Hanini died hours after receiving several bare-fisted blows from an 18-year-old man at the Jaguar Pub in Amager. Hanini had intervened in a commotion started by the assailant and several of his friends, who were angry after being denied alcohol after closing hours.

Copenhagen Municipal Court sentenced the young man according to the so-called mild assault paragraph of the Danish criminal code, on grounds that the teen did not kill the Moroccan man with malice aforethought, and because punches delivered with a bare fist are traditionally considered mild assault in criminal cases - even when the victim dies as a result.

Speaking with daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Justice Minister Lene Espersen refused to comment specifically on the two cases, as sentences in both the Antonio Curra and Hanini cases are under appeal.

"I would like to emphasise, however, that the law applies equally to everyone - naturally, regardless of social or ethnic background. That's how things work in a society based on law, and that's how it is in Denmark," said Espersen.

The Hanini protest group is planning an upcoming petition drive to collect signatures in support of their cause.

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