A German court has convicted a right-wing extremist of murder and attempted murder and sentenced him to life in prison for his attack on a synagogue last year on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day. He killed two people after he failed to gain entry to the building.
The Oct. 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.
News agency dpa reported that judges at the court in Magdeburg on Monday found him “seriously culpable,” meaning that he will be effectively barred from early release after 15 years.
Presiding Judge Ursula Mertens described it as a "cowardly attack" as she announced the verdict. Balliet showed no reaction but took notes.
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 apologized 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.