Germany: Trial begins of Syrian citizen who assaulted man wearing yarmulke
Accompanied by great media interest, the trial began yesterday in Berlin of a 19-year-old Syrian who assaulted two youths wearing yarmulkes in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood in April. The accused has admitted committing the crime, expressed regret for it, and assured the court that he does not hate Jewish people.
The case was filmed by one of the victims using his mobile telephone and sparked outrage throughout the country. Originally it was anticipated that the verdict would be handed down today, but the court has planned a continuation of the hearing for next Monday.
The defendant admitted to striking the victim more than once with his belt. "I am very sorry, it was an error on my part," he testified in front of the packed courtroom.
Deutsche-Presse Agentur (DPA) reported that the accused emphasized more than once that he had felt justified in taking that action because he had allegedly become the target of abuse and insults. In addition, he allegedly was under the influence of marijuana at the time.
"I do not feel hatred toward Jews, or Christians, or anybody else," the Syrian man claimed, even though the video footage of his crime shows him shouting "Jews!" during the incident. "I didn't want to beat him up, just intimidate him."
The assault was perpetrated on the evening of 17 April when a young Israeli man and a German-Moroccan friend were taking a walk through one of Berlin's best- loved neighborhoods. Because they were both wearing yarmulkes, traditional Jewish head coverings, a passer-by began to verbally abuse them.
That passer-by then took off his belt and used it to commit the attack in question. The young Syrian perpetrator, who arrived in Germany in 2015, later turned himself in to the police and faces charges of battery and defamation.
Paradoxically, the Israeli victim, Adam A., is not Jewish, but comes from an Arab family. He got his yarmulke from a Jewish friend and was wearing it because he wanted to test whether it actually is dangerous to openly wear the head covering on the street in Berlin.
The assaulted Israeli said he does not feel safe to this day. "I would never wear a yarmulke outdoors if I were alone," he said.
Adam A. is a student of veterinary medicine and also said he just wears the yarmulke now when he is among friends or in a group of people. The video footage of the attack appeared on the Internet and sparked a tempestuous reaction in Germany.
The incident was condemned by many politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called it horrible. "We must win the battle against such antisemitic affrays. The Federal Government will do all it can to achieve that," she emphasized.
Demonstrations against antisemitism have been held in Berlin and other cities in Germany that commemorate their responsibility for the Holocaust to this day, There has also been more discussion of the problem represented by antisemitism among some Muslim immigrants in addition to the problem of "traditional" antisemitism as performed by right-wing radicals.
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