Germany Convicts Syrian Asylum Seeker Over Stabbing That Sparked Far-right Protests

Migrant sentenced to 9 and a half years in killing that led to anti-migrant demonstrations; his lawyers plan to appeal conviction

Alaa S. arrives at a court in Dresden, Germany, August 22, 2019.
Matthias Rietschel/Pool via REUTERS

A German court on Thursday convicted a Syrian man over a fatal stabbing in the city of Chemnitz last year that touched off far-right protests.

Judges convicted asylum-seeker Alaa S. of manslaughter and dangerous bodily harm in the killing last August of 35-year-old Daniel Hillig.

The 24-year-old defendant, whose last name wasn't released in line with German privacy laws, was sentenced to 9 years and 6 months in prison, slightly less than the 10-year-sentence prosecutors had demanded.

German news agency dpa reported that the defendant had remained silent throughout much of the trial. He spoke only on the last day to say he hoped for a fair verdict.

Defense lawyers had called for their client to be acquitted, citing lack of evidence. After the verdict they announced plans to appeal and accused the court of allowing itself to be swayed by the political debate over the case.

Following the killing, thousands of neo-Nazis, members of the far-right Alternative for Germany party and others assembled in Chemnitz to protest against migration.

Images of skinheads or far-right demonstrators chasing migrants, performing the Hitler salute and attacking a Jewish restaurant, raised questions about how Germany should deal with the right wing, especially after the 2015-16 migrant crisis. 

Chemnitz Mayor Barbara Ludwig had said ahead of the trial, which was held in nearby Dresden for security reasons, that she hoped the defendant would be convicted.

An Iraqi suspect in the case is still being sought on an international arrest warrant.

The verdict comes just over a week before elections in the region in which the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is set to make big gains.