updated 7/8/2008 1:30:59 PM ET 2008-07-08T17:30:59

A Turkish man and a Greek youth were convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to prison Tuesday for a brutal attack on a German retiree that sparked a political furor over crime committed by young immigrants.

The Munich state court sentenced Serkan Aksu, 21, to 12 years in prison. It gave 18-year-old Spyridon Loukas an 8 1/2-year sentence — imposed under juvenile law, because he was 17 at the time of the December attack.

Surveillance cameras in a Munich subway station captured footage of the pair beating and kicking the 76-year-old retired teacher after he asked them to respect a ban on smoking.

Judge Reinhold Baier told the court their attack was "cold-blooded and merciless" and described it as a "completely senseless act." He said the victim, who suffered a triple skull fracture, was lucky to have survived.

Lawyers for the defendants had argued that they should be convicted only of bodily harm and given lower sentences. They said that they would appeal the verdict.

A top Bavarian official said before Tuesday's verdict that the assailants should be thrown out of Germany once their sentences are served.

"No one would understand it if foreigners who show such brutality were able to continue staying in Germany," the state's conservative interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said on Monday.

Notorious case
The attack gained national notoriety and helped make youth crime the centerpiece of an acrimonious election campaign in neighboring Hesse state in January.

Conservative Gov. Roland Koch declared that "we have too many criminal young foreigners" and argued that "zero tolerance against violence" must be an important part of integration policy.

Opponents accused him of stoking prejudices for short-term political gain, and the issue appeared to backfire when Koch's party suffered large losses in the election.

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