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CRIME

Victim asks for Germany to help save racist killer

Nearly slain by a racist killer in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rais Bhuiyan is now hoping to prevent the man's execution on Texas' death row. On Wednesday, he even asked for the German government for help.

Victim asks for Germany to help save racist killer
Photo: DPA

Rais Bhuiyan long ago forgave Mark Ströman, the man who in 11 years ago nearly shot him dead at a petrol station in Dallas, Texas.

But the 37-year-old had a message for Germany while visiting Berlin this week: Don’t let Ströman die.

On July 20, Ströman is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas for killing an Indian man during a robbery a few weeks after Bhuiyan was shot in September 2001.

But his supporters are hoping an international outcry could prompt the Texas governor or courts to reconsider whether Ströman should be killed.

The protest, they say, should include the German government because of Ströman’s ties to Germany – where his father came from.

They want the government to grant Ströman German citizenship and advocate forcefully for him. But it’s Bhuiyan who is really leading the charge.

He’s circled the United States to call for mercy and is now on a last-ditch tour of Europe to try to get governments here to do something, anything to stop the execution.

The odds aren’t good – Texas has largely ignored foreign pressure against the death penalty in the past. But Bhuiyan is relentless.

“I haven’t thought about what I’ll do on July 20 yet,” he said. “I’m just hopeful.”

A brush with death

The shooting happened in a few quick seconds, Bhuiyan remembers. Ströman stormed into the petrol station, carrying a gun. Bhuiyan, figured it was a robbery.

But then came the question: “Where are you from?”

As Ströman fired, the blast from the shotgun scattered more than 30 pellets across Bhuiyan’s face and head.

Blinded in his right eye and bleeding, he pretended to play dead as, in his head, he recited prayers from the Koran.

After he was apprehended, Ströman said he had shot Bhuiyan and murdered two other men he thought were Middle Eastern in a racist rage following the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. But though Ströman was arrested and sentenced to death, it didn’t end the pain for Bhuiyan, who endured years of plastic surgery and was told by doctors that he would never see again in his right eye.

Still, he found peace, relying on his Muslim faith.

“I decided that his is a human life, like anyone else’s,” Bhuiyan said. “I decided I wanted to do something about this.”

Last year, he decided to take action. He wants to give Ströman the compassion that he did not provide his victims.

A race against time

Ströman’s supporters know they’re in a race against time. But they hope Germany’s clout might make a difference.

It’s not clear if Ströman might be granted German citizenship, or what that might practically mean.

But the chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee on Human Rights said Wednesday he was calling on the Texas government to stop the execution.

“We’ve written letters to the governor and not gotten a response” said Tom Koenigs. “We’re trying to make contact with them. This is about human rights and we have a mission to promote these values.”

Bhuiyan stood sat nearby as Koenigs spoke.

Did he really think the execution could be stopped?

“I do absolutely believe it,” he said. “It may not have happened in the past, but it can happen now.”

Moises Mendoza

[email protected]

twitter.com/moisesdmendoza

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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