A gunman who attacked a synagogue in the German city of Halle on Yom Kippur last year has been sentenced to life in prison for what the prosecutor described as “one of the most repulsive antisemitic acts since World War II.”
Far-right extremist Stephan Balliet, 28, killed two people in a rampage after a failed attack on the synagogue in Halle, eastern Germany, last year. Announcing the verdict on Monday morning, Judge Ursula Mertens said that Mr Balliet had repeatedly tried to justify his “cowardly attack” during the five-month trial. As well as life imprisonment, his sentence carries an acknowledgment of the gravity of his crime, ruling out an early release.
On Yom Kippur – 9th October 2019 – Mr Balliet tried to enter the city’s main synagogue where 52 worshippers were marking the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. After failing to get inside, he shot a passerby 40-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man in a nearby kebab shop.
Charged with the attempted murder of 68 people, Holocaust denial and incitement, Mr Balliet went on trial in July. During the trial, held for security reasons at the regional court building in Magdeburg, he made little effort to defend his actions, repeating his denial of the Holocaust, spouting racist and misogynist conspiracy theories and railing against migrants.
Mr Balliet was not a member of an organised terrorist cell, but had joined neo-Nazi online forums. During testimony that led to the judge threatening to exclude him from the courtroom for abusive and racist language, he claimed that being “on the bottom rung of society” justified the attack.
The head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said the verdict marked an important day for Germany. In a statement, he said the verdict made it clear “that murderous hatred of Jews meets with no tolerance” adding that “up to the end, the attacker showed no remorse, but kept to his hate-filled antisemitic and racist world view.”