Germany: Fluffy-Light Justice

October 15, 1993

The suspended two-year sentence Guenter Parche received from a Hamburg judge for stabbing tennis star Monica Seles amounted to five-and-a-half months spent in jail awaiting trial. No wonder the tennis world is shocked. How right for prosecutors to appeal the fluffy-light sentence.

Mr. Parche told his psychiatrist he worshiped Steffi Graf, the German tennis hero whom Ms. Seles de-throned as No. 1. He quit his job, stalked Ms. Seles and finally stabbed her. She hopes to resume play in January, but that is not assured.

The crime was a success. Ms. Graf is No. 1 again. She is blameless in the stabbing, but nonetheless its beneficiary.

Americans are not well-positioned to criticize other countries' criminal justice systems. We have more of our citizens locked up than almost any country, in what most Europeans think an overly harsh system, which does nothing to protect German tourists from murder on Florida highways.

But German courts have been enlightened and lenient about crimes of violence at a time when German violence against foreigners is alarmingly on the increase. The xenophobic arson of houses of Turks, the skinhead beatings of Asians, the harassment of disabled persons, the desecration of Jewish graves is all too suggestive of the worst features of the German past, of ethnic violence in this country and of the crime against Ms. Seles.

Monica Seles was born in Serbia to Hungarian parents. Had a Serb, in idol-worship of Ms. Seles, stabbed Ms. Graf at a German tournament to protect Ms. Seles' standing, would the judge have been so enlightened? No Serb would think so.

Germany is behind the U.S. in identifying hate crimes, sex crimes, stalking and the like. But not so far behind in their perpetration. Guenter Parche reportedly spent his first night of freedom locked up in jail for his own safety at his own request. He understands what he did better than did the judge.

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