German Prosecutors Seek Life for Yom Kippur Attacker at Halle Synagogue

Federal prosecutors urged the judges to find the defendant 'seriously culpable,' which would bar him from early release

The Associated Press
The Associated Press
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Stephan Balliet, accused of shooting dead two people at a synagogue in Halle, is taken off the handcuffs before the start of the 21th day of his trial in Magdeburg, Germany, November 18, 2020.
Stephan Balliet, accused of shooting dead two people at a synagogue in Halle, is taken off the handcuffs before the start of the 21th day of his trial in Magdeburg, Germany, November 18, 2020.Credit: Ronny Hartmann / AFP
The Associated Press
The Associated Press

German prosecutors called Wednesday for a court to impose a life sentence on a 28-year-old right-wing extremist who attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle last year, killing two people after he failed to gain entry to the building.

The attack on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, is considered one of the worst assaults in Germany's post-war history. The defendant, Stephan Balliet, is alleged to have posted a screed before trying to shoot his way into the synagogue on October 9, 2019, while broadcasting live on a popular gaming site.

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Federal prosecutors asked the court in nearby Magdeburg to convict Balliet of murder, attempted murder, incitement to hatred and attempted violent extortion. They urged the judges to find the defendant “seriously culpable,” meaning that he would be barred from early release after 15 years.

During his , which began in July,  admitted he wanted to enter the synagogue and kill 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.

Federal prosecutor Kai Lohse said the shooting had been an attack not just on the people inside the synagogue but on Jewish life in general in Germany.

“In doing so the attacker aimed at all of us, because Jewish life is an indispensable part of our country,” German news agency dpa quoted the prosecutor as saying.

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 and the fatal shooting of nine people of immigrant background in Hanau within a year.

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