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POLITICS

‘I fired the shot’: German neo-Nazi on trial over politician murder admits to killing

A German neo-Nazi on trial over the murder of pro-refugee politician Walter Lübcke admitted Wednesday to the killing that has shocked the nation and highlighted the growing threat of right-wing extremism.

'I fired the shot': German neo-Nazi on trial over politician murder admits to killing
Stephan Ernst on trial on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

“I fired the shot,” Stephan Ernst, 46, told the court of the killing in a statement read out by his defence.

Federal prosecutors have said Ernst was motivated by “racism and xenophobia” when he allegedly shot Lübcke in the head on June 1st, 2019.

Lübcke's killing is believed to be Germany's first far-right political assassination since World War II.

Apologising to the victim's family, Ernst said he had carried out a “cowardly and cruel” act.

READ ALSO: Political link suspected in German pro-migrant politician's murder

He insisted that he did not act alone but along with co-defendant Markus Hartmann, who stands accused of helping him train with firearms — including the murder weapon.

“I know that what I and Hartmann did to you will always be inexcusable. What we did was wrong,” he told the family in the statement.

“No one should die because he has another view,” said Ernst, adding that he had been “misled by wrong ideas”.

Lübcke belonged to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party and headed the Kassel regional council in the western state of Hesse.

He supported Merkel's 2015 decision to open the country's borders to refugees, with more than one million arriving since then, and spoke in favour of hosting asylum seekers in a local town.

Prosecutors say Ernst and his accomplice attended a speech by Lübcke in October 2015 when the politician defended helping refugees, adding that anyone who did not agree with those values was “free to leave the country”.


The late Walter Lübcke. Photo: DPA
'Hatred of foreigners'

The remark was widely shared online and turned Lübcke into a hate figure for the far right.

After the speech, Ernst “increasingly projected his hatred of foreigners” on to Lübcke, according to the indictment.

Angered by mass sexual assaults by migrants against women in Cologne on New Year's Eve 2015 and the 2016 terror attack in the French city of Nice, Ernst “began planning the murder in earnest” and started tracking Lübcke's movements, the indictment said.

Between 2016 and 2018, prosecutors say Ernst worked with Hartmann to improve his skill with firearms, and the two attended right-wing demonstrations together.

READ ALSO: Neo-Nazi accused of killing German politician blames accomplice

In the course of their investigations, prosecutors separately charged Ernst with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing an Iraqi asylum seeker in the back in 2016.

Ernst has a long criminal history and was known to police as a neo-Nazi sympathiser.

He was convicted of an attempted bomb attack on an asylum home in 1993. In 2009, German media say he took part in neo-Nazi clashes targeting a union demonstration.

But Ernst then slipped off the security services' radar, leading to criticism that the authorities were not taking the far-right threat seriously enough.

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UKRAINE

Germany’s defence minister visits Ukraine: ministry

Germany's Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Saturday, her first since Russia's invasion in February, as Kyiv urges Berlin to send it battle tanks.

Germany's defence minister visits Ukraine: ministry

Lambrecht visited the southern port city of Odessa, the German defence ministry said in a statement, without saying how long the trip had lasted. It added on Twitter that she had met her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.

So far, no NATO country has supplied Western battle tanks to Kyiv.

Ukraine has repeatedly sought Leopard battle tanks from Germany to aid in its counter-attack against Russia, but Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has refused.

Scholz has said he doesn’t want to go it alone on arms supplies and will only take decisions in consultation with his Western allies.

Lambrecht reiterated this stance in Odessa: “We will always confer with our partners about what Ukraine needs,” she said.

“From my impressions today, air defence and artillery are currently at the forefront,” she told public broadcaster ARD.

She added that she had seen how the “populations were tormented by drones”.

Lambrecht’s visit came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

These annexations have been unanimously condemned by Ukraine’s allies.

“Germany will never recognise the results of the sham referendums” in the four regions, Scholz told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone on Wednesday, according to the chancellor’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

Scholz travelled to Ukraine in June, and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has visited Kyiv twice.

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