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German cannibal gets 8{ years

A German computer technician who killed and ate a willing victim he found through the Internet was convicted of manslaughter on Friday in a ruling that reflected the legal ambiguities of a case that has, by turns, fascinated and repulsed people.

A court in Kassel, about 90 miles north of Frankfurt, sentenced Armin Meiwes to 8{ years in prison for killing Bernd-Juergen Brandes, who responded to an Internet posting by Meiwes seeking someone willing to be "slaughtered."

The three-judge court rejected the prosecution's plea for a murder conviction and a life sentence.

"Both were looking for the ultimate kick," chief judge Volker Muetze said after reading the verdict. "This was an act between two extremely disturbed people who both wanted something from each other."

The conviction on a lesser charge means Meiwes could be released in less than five years, which alarmed many of the people who turned up at the court in the central state of Hesse.

Harald Ermel, a lawyer for Meiwes, said he would appeal. Ermel had argued that his client was guilty only of "killing on request," an illegal form of euthanasia that carries a maximum prison term of five years.

"He's a model prisoner," Ermel said. "He will voluntarily undergo psychiatric therapy to get away from his fetish for men's flesh. I'm sure he won't do anything like this again."

That is not likely to calm the fears of people in Rotenburg an der Fulda, the secluded village south of Kassel where Meiwes, 42, lived in a rambling house.

He played host there to four other men who responded to his Web posting, before finding the 43-year-old Brandes in March 2001.

What followed was an evening of sexual role-playing and violence, much of it videotaped by Meiwes. In the end, he stabbed Brandes to death with a kitchen knife, hung the corpse on a meat hook, and carved it up, storing pieces of flesh in plastic bags in his freezer.

It was hard to reconcile the placid, well-dressed defendant in the courtroom with the grisly testimony of the man German newspapers called "Hannibal of Hesse." Yet it was the legal dilemma, as much as the lurid details of the case, that consumed the court.

Convicting Meiwes of murder would have been difficult, legal experts say, because the victim consented, even pleaded, to be killed.

But confining Meiwes to a psychiatric hospital would have presented problems because a court-appointed psychiatrist testified he was not suffering from "diminished responsibility" at the time of the killing.