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CRIME

Trial of ‘serial Autobahn shooter’ begins

A truck driver accused of a five-year indiscriminate shooting spree on German motorways to teach on the road users a "lesson" went on trial on Monday.

Trial of 'serial Autobahn shooter' begins
DPA

Prosecutors say the man, identified as Michael Harry K., was a "frustrated loner" and claim he fired more than 700 times at trucks and cars, leaving several people injured, until his arrest in June 2013.

The 58-year-old faces five counts of attempted murder, as well as grievous bodily harm and other charges, and could face a lengthy prison term if found guilty by the district court in the Bavarian city of Würzburg.

The charges relate to 171 different incidents.

The accused, who lives in western Germany, had wanted to teach other truck drivers a "lesson" over their road behaviour, local DPA news agency quoted senior prosecutor Boris Raufeisen as saying at the trial's opening.

He claimed that the defendant was aware his missed shots could cause "serious accidents with considerable consequences to the point of death of other road users".

The defence has rejected the attempted murder charge and, through his lawyer, the accused vigorously contested in court that he had considered that people could be hit.

"I reject the accusation of having accepted that people might die," he said in a statement read out by his lawyer.

But he admitted that from around late 2009 he fired a "number I can't recall of shots" at lorries' loads on German motorways.

During the investigation he had said that he didn't want to hurt anyone and only aimed at a truck's load or freight hold.

He also said he had acted after once nearly being pushed off the road by a car transporter. 

Presiding judge Burkhard Poepperl said the accused had referred in previous questioning to a "war on German motorways" and the defendant confirmed that that was his view.

In 2009, the year after the alleged shootings began, a businesswoman in a car was critically injured after being struck in the neck and crashing into the motorway barrier at high speed.

The defendant also apologised in the statement to court to the injured woman and to those whose vehicles had been damaged.

The investigation into the motorway shootings, which began at the latest in 2008, was complicated because the drivers of the vehicles hit often didn't notice until arriving at their destination.

Police eventually made an arrest after setting up a technical surveillance system on stretches of motorway to register licence plates.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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