A German court has delivered its verdict in the trial of a right-wing extremist who attacked a synagogue on Judaism’s holiest day, Yom Kippur, in 2019.
Stephan Balliet has been sentenced to life in prison for murder and attempted murder.
The October 9, 2019 attack is considered one of the worst anti-Semitic assaults in Germany’s post-war history.
The 28-year-old defendant, Stephan Balliet, posted a screed against Jews before trying to shoot his way into the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle while broadcasting the attack live on a popular gaming site. He shot and killed two people when he failed to enter the synagogue.
The judges found him “seriously culpable", news agency dpa reported. That means he will be effectively barred from early release after 15 years, which is typical for people in Germany who have been given life sentences.
Presiding Judge Ursula Mertens described the incident as a “cowardly attack” when she announced the verdict. Balliet showed no reaction but took notes.
Federal prosecutors have asked the Naumburg state court, meeting in nearby Magdeburg, to convict Balliet of murder, attempted murder, incitement to hatred, and attempted violent extortion.
During his trial, which began in July, Balliet admitted he wanted to enter the synagogue and kill all the 51 people inside.
When he was unable to open the building’s heavy doors, the German shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop, and wounded several others.
He apologised to the court for killing the woman, saying that “I didn’t want to kill whites.”
German authorities have vowed to step up measures against far-right extremism following the Halle attack, the killing of a regional politician by a suspected neo-Nazi and the fatal shooting of nine people of immigrant background in Hanau — all of which happened within a year.
The head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said the verdict marked “an important day for Germany”.
“The verdict makes clear that murderous hatred of Jews is meet with no tolerance,” he said in a statement.
“Up to the end, the attacker showed no remorse, but kept to his hate-filled anti-Semitic and racist world view.”