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CRIME

German prosecutors seek life in jail for anti-Semitic attack suspect

Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded life behind bars for a man accused of killing two people in an anti-Semitic attack in the German city of Halle last year.

German prosecutors seek life in jail for anti-Semitic attack suspect
Stephan Balliet (r) sits next to his lawyer in court in Magedburg on November 17th. Photo: DPA

Stephan Balliet, 28, is accused of trying to storm a synagogue filled with worshippers in the attack on October 9th, 2019 during Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

After failing to break down the door, the attacker shot dead a female passer-by and a man at a kebab shop instead.

“The attack on the synagogue in Halle was one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II,” prosecutor Kai Lohse told a court in Magdeburg.

Lohse said Balliet had acted on the basis of a “racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideology” to carry out an attack against not only those he killed but “Jewish life in Germany as a whole”.

The events that unfolded were like a “nightmare”, he added.

“At the end of this nightmare, the perpetrator murdered two people and injured and traumatised numerous others.”

READ ALSO: German leaders express shame at rising anti-Semitism

During the trial, Balliet had insisted to the court that “attacking the synagogue was not a mistake, they are my enemies”.

He has been charged with two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder in a case that has deeply rattled the country and fuelled alarm about rising right-wing extremism and anti-Jewish violence, 75 years after the end of the Nazi era.

Following the public prosecutor's summary, lawyers of co-plaintiffs will in turn sum up their case.

The defence will then make its last statement before the court hands down a verdict, likely in December.

The government's point man against anti-Semitism, Felix Klein, called the trial “a good opportunity to bring about debate in society about anti-Semitism”.

Anti-Semitic crimes have risen steadily in Germany in recent years, with 2,032 offences recorded in 2019, up 13 percent on the previous year.

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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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