German court to give verdict in Yom Kippur synagogue attack

December 21, 2020 GMT

BERLIN (AP) — A German court is expected to deliver its verdict Monday in the trial of a right-wing extremist who attacked a synagogue on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, killing two people after he failed to gain entry to the building.

The Oct. 9, 2019, attack is considered one of the worst anti-Semitic assaults in Germany’s post-war history. The 28-year-old defendant, Stephan Balliet, has is alleged to have posted a screed against Jews before trying to shoot his way into the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle while broadcasting the attack live on a popular gaming site.

Federal prosecutors have asked the Naumburg state court, meeting in nearby Magdeburg, to convict Balliet of murder, attempted murder, incitement to hatred and attempted violent extortion. They urged judges to find him “seriously culpable,” meaning that he would be barred from early release after 15 years.

During his trial, which began in July, Balliet admitted he wanted to enter the synagogue and kill all the 51 people inside. When he was unable to open the building’s heavy doors, the German shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop, and wounded several others.

He apologized to the court for killing the woman, saying that “I didn’t want to kill whites.”

German authorities have vowed to step up measures against far-right extremism following the Halle attack, the killing of a regional politician by a suspected neo-Nazi and the fatal shooting of nine people of immigrant background in Hanau — all of which happened within a year.