FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German cannibal who killed a man who wanted to be eaten told a court Monday that he had only been carrying out his victim's wishes and had not expressly sought to kill him.
"I wanted to eat him, but I didn't want to kill him," Armin Meiwes, 44, told judges in three hours of testimony at his retrial.
Meiwes was sentenced in January 2004 to 8-1/2 years for manslaughter, but the Supreme Court ruled last April that the judges had been too lenient and ordered a retrial.
He had admitted killing Berlin-based computer specialist Bernd-Juergen Brandes, 43, but was spared a murder conviction and a possible life sentence because the victim had demanded to be eaten.
Meiwes told the court, repeating much of his testimony from his first trial, that he had severed Brandes's penis at his request and that both had tried to eat it, without success.
Brandes steadily lost more blood and finally dropped unconscious, at which point Meiwes said he decided to pray.
"I didn't know whether I should pray to the devil or to God," said Meiwes, who appeared relaxed and eager to tell his version of events.
Believing his victim to be dead, he said, he plunged a knife into his neck. Only when he later saw his videotape of the crime did he realize that Brandes had still been faintly breathing.
Meiwes's legal team has argued the defendant merely acceded to Brandes's wishes and that his crime was only "killing on request," a form of illegal euthanasia that carries a maximum five-year sentence.
Prosecutors, hoping to secure a murder conviction, need to show that Meiwes killed Brandes not only because the latter had wanted to be eaten, but also due to a base desire of his own.
Germany's top criminal court said the first trial court had ignored the fact that Meiwes had filmed the slaying for later sexual gratification.
Psychiatrists have found Meiwes deeply disturbed but sane.
Meiwes's lawyers told the court last week that he had earlier released four other potential victims who had changed their minds at the last minute and initially driven Brandes homeward after the victim appeared to lose his nerve.
Meiwes, who met Brandes via the Internet, said he had been in contact with over 400 people who claimed they wanted to be slaughtered, although the vast majority were not prepared to fulfill their supposed fantasy.
Of the handful of men he met, Meiwes said, only Brandes had been a truly willing victim.