German court sentences terrorist who attacked Halle synagogue last year to life in prison
Stephan Balliet, the person responsible for last year's attack on a synagogue in Halle, was sentenced to life in prison Monday by a court in Germany. The verdict, which has yet to take effect, agreed with the prosecutor's suggested punishment.
During his attack, Balliet never made it inside the synagogue, but he did kill two people in the vicinity. The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed the verdict and called it a symbol of the fact that there is no place for antisemitism in the country.
Balliet admitted committing the crimes, but may still appeal the life sentence, which includes a protective custody order. In especially serious cases when a person poses a danger to the public, protective custody is used as a special preventive measure to make sure that if even if a convict's sentence is changed while it is being served, the convict will still never leave prison.
The verdict means that even if Balliet were to be conditionally released or pardoned in the future, he would still remain in protective detention. Such detention is not considered punishment, but protection for the public, and its conditions are milder, compared to imprisonment.
In the case of a life sentence, it is possible in Germany to achieve conditional release after 15 years behind bars. "Today is a significant day for Germany. The verdict is a clear statement that murderous hatred toward Jews is not tolerated here," said Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Schuster noted that the assassin has demonstrated no regret since committing his crimes and continues to hold racist attitudes. Balliet atempted to attack the synagogue in October 2019 as believers were celebrating the biggest holiday in Judaism, Yom Kippur.
The terrorist did not enter the synagogue because its doors were too massive to breach, and therefore he fired his weapon at random passers-by before shooting a young man in a nearby fast-food shop. He injured several other people as well.
Balliet confessed that antisemitic, racist conspiracy theories led him to commit the crimes. His defense attorneys endeavored to reduce the charges, arguing that the defendant had not committed attempted murder against the more than 50 people in the synagogue because he eventually retreated from his intention to enter the building.
The court rejected that interpretation of events. During his court testimony Balliet did not deny having committed the crimes.
The defendant said he had originally wanted to attack Muslims but eventually decided to choose Jews as his target because he considers them to pose a bigger problem for "dissatisfied white men". During the trial he also attempted more than once to espouse his racist opinions and had to be repeatedly silenced.
A forensic psychiatrist said during the trial that Balliet suffers from a complex personality disorder with signs of autism and paranoia, but also emphasized that his condition does not affect his mental functioning or his ability to differentiate behavior that is illegal from behavior that is legal. The psychiatrist reasoned that, unlike patients who suffer from deceptive ideas or from delusions, the defendant had rationally planned his crime in detail and waited for the best moment at which to commit it.
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