Man jailed for sabotage of German high-speed railway line

BERLIN (AP) — A German court on Monday convicted a man of attempted murder and gave him a nearly 10-year prison sentence for removing hundreds of screws from a high-speed railway track in an effort to cause a derailment.

The state court in Wiesbaden sentenced the 52-year-old German to nine years and 10 months behind bars, German news agency dpa reported.

According to prosecutors, the man removed more than 250 screws from a stretch of the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed line, one of Germany’s most important routes, in March 2020.

More than 400 trains over several days used the tracks at high speed before two drivers noticed that something was amiss. A check then found that a roughly 80-meter (260-foot) stretch of track was loose.

An expert told the two-month trial that a train would have derailed if another five to 30 trains had passed over the spot, causing a disaster in which people would have died.

The court found that the defendant had an “exaggerated craving for recognition.” A psychiatrist diagnosed a personality disorder during the trial.

In 2018, he had sent letters to the German chancellery and elsewhere claiming, among other things, that terrorists had told him they were planning an attack on a high-speed line and only he could prevent it, and demanding billions of euros, a lifetime of free train travel and “female playmates.”

The court found that, after receiving no replies, he wanted to underline his demands by carrying out the sabotage. He is accused of loosening the screws during the night, when the line wasn’t used for a few hours.

Prosecutors had sought a 13-year sentence. The defense lawyer had called for the acquittal of the man, who was homeless at the time and was arrested in Cologne a few days later, arguing it wasn’t proven that his client was responsible.

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