Germany: Trial begins of right-wing extremist charged with murder of local politician
On 16 June the trial of the right-wing extremist and his alleged accomplice charged with murdering regional politician Walter Lübcke, who was a member of the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU), began in Frankfurt under strict security measures and with great media interest. The trial is scheduled to last until at least the end of October.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported that the public has an avid interest in the proceedings. Long lines formed in front of the High Court in Frankfurt several hours before the hearing was due to begin.
The first media representatives, according to DPA, had been standing in line since the evening of Monday the 15th. The murder of a politician in a context of extreme-right activity is something unusual in modern Germany.
The main defendant is 46-year-old Stephan Ernst. He is charged with having shot Lübcke, the head of the district office, dead during the late night hours of 1 June 2019 or the early morning hours of 2 June on the terrace of his home in Kassel, in the state of Hessen.
Ernst's alleged accomplice is a 44-year-old Markus H. The murder sparked consternation in Germany last year.
Lübcke had publicly supported Chancellor Angela Merkel in her decision to receive hundreds of thousands of refugees in 2015. Ernst is also suspected of having stabbed and seriously wounded an Iraqi refugee in Lohfelden, in the state of Hessen, in January 2016.
Ernst is charged with murder, attempted murder, serious bodily harm, and breaking the law on possession of firearms, of which he owned a rather large arsenal. Markus H. is charged with abetting murder and breaking the law on firearms.
Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, physical distancing rules are in effect at the courthouse, so just a limited number of people were allowed to watch the trial. For security reasons the court refused to hold it in a larger venue outside of the courthouse.
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