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German 'Cannibal' Trial Poses Tough Legal Questions - 2003-12-03

A man who killed another man and then ate his victim's flesh was put on trial for murder in Germany Wednesday. This bizarre case poses tough legal questions.

The defendant, Armin Meiwes, a 42-year-old computer expert, admitted killing Bernd J├╝rgen Brandes, an engineer from Berlin, whom he had met on an Internet chat room. The defendant claims Mr. Brandes answered his invitation to be murdered.

Mr. Meiwes in March 2001 invited the victim to his sprawling country home where he stabbed him, cut up his body and ate it. Mr. Meiwes recorded the entire gruesome scene on video.

Federal prosecutors have charged Mr. Meiwes with "murder for sexual satisfaction." If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in jail.

But his lawyer wants a verdict of "killing by demand," arguing his victim wanted to be killed. That crime carries a five-year jail term. The lawyers also argue that cannibalism is not a crime under German law.

Mr. Meiwes, who psychiatrists say is sexually disturbed, says he now regrets the entire episode.