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Murderer of Egyptian 'veil martyr' gets life

AFP/The Local · 11 Nov 2009, 17:47

Published: 11 Nov 2009 17:47 GMT+01:00

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Alex Wiens, 28, his face covered by a hood and his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, was motionless as the court in the eastern German city of Dresden found him guilty of murdering Marwa El-Sherbini, dubbed the "veil martyr."

On July 1, in the same courthouse, Wiens had plunged an 18-centimetre kitchen knife at least 16 times into Sherbini, 31 and three-months pregnant at the time. Her son, three-year-old Mustafa, watched her bleed to death at the scene.

Sherbini's husband, Egyptian geneticist Elwy Okaz, rushed to her aid but was also stabbed repeatedly and then shot in the leg by a guard who apparently mistook him for the attacker.

Wiens, surrounded by four security guards as the verdict was read, was also found guilty of attempted murder and causing bodily harm for his attack on Sherbini's husband.

"He killed Marwa not of dread or fear but out of revenge," Judge Birgit Wiegand said. "He deliberately profited from her innocence and her defencelessness."

The killing, as well as a slow reaction from Germany's politicians and media, sparked outrage in Sherbini's home country, as well as in the wider Muslim world.

The Egyptian ambassador to Germany, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, welcomed the verdict on Wednesday.

"The judgement says it all. The right sentence was delivered today and justice has been honoured," he said. "Getting the maximum possible sentence, I think that itself says a lot. I think that should satisfy the family and the people."

On crutches, unsure if he will ever walk again, Okaz gave wrenching testimony during the trial, telling the court how Mustafa, who now lives with family in Egypt, misses his mother.

The trial centred around Wiens' motives for the murder and whether he was fully in control of his faculties at the time.

Prosecutors said he was driven by "an unbridled hatred of foreigners." In a statement read by his lawyer, Wiens admitted being hostile to foreigners but denied this was the motive for the attack.

In a dramatic last-minute twist, a document suddenly arrived from Russia showing that Wiens had been declared unfit for military service in 2001 because of an "undifferentiated schizophrenia."

Defence lawyers said that the stabbing had not been premeditated, that Wiens always carried a knife in his backpack, and that his psychiatric condition mitigated the crime.

Story continues below…

The courthouse, so lightly guarded when the murder took place, now resembled a maximum security prison, with some 200 police officers and snipers on hand following death threats against Wiens, who was shielded by bulletproof glass.

The first fateful meeting of Wiens and Sherbini occurred in August 2008 in a playground. Sherbini asked Wiens to vacate a swing so her son could use it but this harmless request was met with a torrent of Islamophobic abuse.

Wiens called her a "terrorist", "Islamist" and "whore." She pressed charges for verbal abuse and he was fined €780. But he appealed the conviction, bringing them together again on July 1, 2009 - a day that ended in tragedy.

Outside the courtroom, around 200 people, most of them Muslims, staged a demonstration calling for the government to do more to counter racism, particularly on the internet.

"History, which we Germans should have learned better than anyone, has shown us where propaganda aimed against religious minorities can lead," said Muhamed Ciftci, a spokesman for the organisers.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:15 November 11, 2009 by Edin
"It is true that I am hostile to foreigners but that was not the motive," Wiens said in a statement .....

Unbelievable... The guy is such a calculated monster, he is actually trying, in such a stupid way, to get the smaller sentence. He feels no guilt here.... let him rotten for life.
11:27 November 11, 2009 by Jibzy
As a foreigner myself living in Germany, i kind of feel more scared by what the Police did in the case. They came to the scene and shot the husband.

I hold immense respect for the German culture, this wonderful country, the language, the heritage and its people but it hurts me and scares me that no matter how much i try to integrate myself here, if some day something like this happens with me...i will be 'confused' as the attacker/offender.

Monsters like Wiens are in every society, if its not against foreigners then it would be against other religions or whatever. And yes he should get life in jail because death is too small a punishment for him.
11:40 November 11, 2009 by Meatman
"by an overwhelming, unbridled hatred of foreigners."

As he was quoted saying. Thus being his motivating factor, had he not considered too that he was a foreigner since he was Russian born?

It's a hate crime, racist crime, premeditated crime. For this he needs to be removed from society for good. There will always be religious people. There will always be foreigners. There will always be people of different societies, race, religion, and creed. He and others like him will always have to face these obstacles if in fact they are fueled by the hatred. Removing him and the likes of him from society helps in such small ways to the large picture, but it has to begin somewhere.

I am a foreigner. I have contrary religious beliefs, and I am not fully integrated into Germany. Am I next in line for people like this to kill?
18:20 November 11, 2009 by acb
@ Jibzy and Meatman: I am sure that you would agree with me that most places in this world are a lot worse to live in for foreigners? I as a foreigner who has been lucky enough to have been pretty much all over the world, feel the safest and the least discriminated against here in Germany (among a very few other places). Sure, there are ignorant a*******s everywhere, also here, but all in all this country is more than just a bit open-minded and incredibly accommodating, isn't it?
21:17 November 11, 2009 by wood artist
Being an American, when I'm in Germany I am a "foreigner." That said, I can honestly say I have never felt like one. The people that I meet, from all walks of life, are uniformly friendly and helpful, even when I am asking questions that could easily cause discomfort. (I'm there doing research for a book that involves a whole lot of German history)

Does the country struggle to deal with immigration issues? Certainly. Virtually every country does, and, at least to me, Germany seems no different on that score. Since 2001, the issues have changed, and everyone is trying to find answers to questions that simply weren't as important before that time.

This man obviously had problems, and took unacceptable ways to deal with them. That might sound a bit flippant, and I don't mean it to in any way. The request that started his attacks was both reasonable and polite. What he did (both then and later) was wrong, and I believe justice has been served. I wish it had never happened, as does everyone else, but...it. did.
21:20 November 11, 2009 by Davey-jo
How come he gets to hide his ugly face?
00:11 November 12, 2009 by Jibzy

Certainly. And that is exactly what is scary for me. I would guess that the Veil Martyr and her husband were also integrated. But then this happens. They had the image that police and courts stand for protection but then this court became the murder scene and the police became the 2nd attackers. This surprise is more shocking. If this happens in, lets say, Afghanistan..you would expect that due to corruption and lawlessness.

All said, i would agree with 'wood artist'. Furthermore i add that there was no time when my good German friends made me. even slightly, feel that i was not a part of them or was an 'outsider' or something.
12:02 November 12, 2009 by Johnne
@wood artist. you feel like that because you are an american & proberbly spoke english to people. of course americans are treated with too much respect in this country so it doesn´t matter...just try & identify yourself as an african incase you´re black, & say you´re a south african incase you´re white..then you´ll experience the other side of the society. This is shameful! so,after all the atrocities committed by the Nazis and Adolf Hitler..germany refuse to learn???????
13:13 November 12, 2009 by igru

you are right, the other side of the society exists, but where not? tell me one example, if you can, i would be happy if there were one! in nearly every country you will find foreigners who are attacked by local people. but nowhere such a fuzz was made about it. surely, the crime ought to be punished but everywhere! what`s about the murderer of the two young German girls in Yemen? surely, they have done something wrong but did Germany see this as an attack of Germany at all or as an attack of christianity? it could have been seen at that with the help pf propaganda.

and please, do`nt reduce Germany to just one ( addmitingly very dark and awful) short period of time. we have learnt from our past and most of us do not want to have those people back. back to your examples, there is something wrong. as a white south african you would have been treated very well if Germany had not learnt from past! you are playing with sterotypes but in a wrong way!

i think the crime is been rewarded with the correct punishment. but i believe that the sentence is not been given because of the cruelty but because the tension from other countries was too strong and the politicians are threatened and that`s also a wrong way.
13:58 November 12, 2009 by Jibzy
I think Johnne exaggerated it a little. I am brown. I come from Pakistan which is currently the most defamed country in the ranking (equal to Israel). I also feel sometimes that a few people are racist but i wont take it to the extent you did. And yes, as igru said, dont reduce Germany to just one short period of time. Thats what those people do about whom you are complaining.
13:11 November 14, 2009 by Aussiefrank
The Police react from training, and what they see on arrival at a crime scene, but all through the filter of their ethnic/National viewpoint moderated by intelligence. I don't find my self defending Police actions, however unless we are able to have seen through the Officers eyes his first impressions of what was happening when he arrived.Then having to react quickly if the event being viewed as life threatening,hence requiring almost superhuman reactions on his part, then to act against the percieved danger in order to save a life. This all viewed through his ethnic filter, make his error forgivable . Many a soldier has been killed by a team mate because they too are required to react to save their own and other people of their groups lives are required to to react at at a visceral lever and instantly,mistakes are made !

To knock the cops shooting as racist is, I think, a tad of an over reaction given we have not full details on how he saw the situation.

Ask yourself how a Cop would react in a similar situation in a different country with a different ethnicity. I think the same error in the latter case would have the same basis as this shooting. View that through your ethnicity and see how you would feel? I go along with Jibsy
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