Suspected extremist to go on trial for 2019 Halle synagogue attack

He is facing charges of double murder and attempted murder on 68 counts

Photo: AP A body lies on a road in Halle, Germany, 9 October, 2019 after a shooting incident

A man is set to go on trial in Germany on Tuesday for one of the worst anti-Semitic crimes in the country's post-war history, in which a failed attempt to storm a synagogue ended in the killing of two people.

An armed gunman tried to gain access to the synagogue in the city of Halle on 9 October, 2019 - Yom Kippur - the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. He shot at the building's heavy wooden door and hurled explosives. After failing to get in, the attacker shot dead a 40-year-old woman on the street, then headed to a nearby kebab shop where he shot and killed a 20-year-old man.

A couple were also seriously injured during the rampage, which was live-streamed on the internet.

A 28-year-old man from the central state of of Saxony-Anhalt, identified under Germany's strict privacy laws as Stephan B., stands accused of the crimes. He is facing charges of double murder and attempted murder on 68 counts, among other crimes.

"Stephan B. planned to murder fellow citizens of the Jewish faith due to his anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic disposition," prosecutors said.

A manifesto allegedly released by him prior to the attack set out an anti-Semitic world view and spoke of a "Zionist-occupied government."

He is said to have armed himself with eight guns, several explosive devices, a helmet and a protective vest.

Jewish groups are being represented as co-plaintiffs in the trial alongside those who were directly affected by the attack.

The first day of the trial was scheduled to begin at 10 am (0800 GMT) in the city of Magdeburg but a court spokesman confirmed to dpa that there would be a delay, without specifying a new start time. Just minutes before the planned start, crowds of observers and journalists were still standing outside the court building, where strict security measures have been put in place.

Juri Goldstein, a lawyer representing visitors from the Halle Jewish Community, said prior to Tuesday's opening hearing that they were seeking answers on how someone could become radicalised.

The question is, how could someone develop so much hatred "of people whom he does not know at all?" Goldstein said.

"Anti-Semitism and right-wing radical ideology are not a new phenomenon in Germany," said another co-plaintiff, Christina Feist.

"It is high time that we finally recognize this shameful truth," she added.

The proceedings are currently scheduled to end on 14 October.

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