German prosecutors seek life for Yom Kippur attacker

BERLIN (AP) — 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 anti-Semitic assaults in Germany’s post-war history. The defendant, Stephan Balliet, has is alleged to have posted a screed against Jews before trying to shoot his way into the synagogue on Oct. 9, 2019, while broadcasting the attack live on a popular gaming site.

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 trial, which began in July, Balliet 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.

He apologized to the court for killing the woman passing by, saying that “I didn’t want to kill whites.”

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.

While not part of the trial, questions have been raised about the police handling of the shooting, including their delay in providing first aid to the woman who was shot.

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 within a year.

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