A German neo-Nazi, already convicted of racist violence, is in trial in Frankfurt for the murder of a pro-migrant politician Walter Lübcke. He faces life imprisonment. This trial revives the debate on racism and anti-Semitism that still prevails in Germany.
Stephan Ernst, a neo-Nazi sympathizer, the alleged killer of Walter Lübcke, an elected official favoring the reception of immigrants, opened Tuesday, June 16, in Frankfurt. Nearly a year ago, this murder had provoked the terror of right-wing terrorism in Germany.
The hearing attracted great interest from the public and the media, some of whom waited part of the night before the Frankfurt regional court. It is really the first time since World War II that such a case has been tried in Germany.
“Send a clear signal against hate and violence”
During the night of June 2, 2019, Walter Lübcke, 65-year-old elected representative of Angela Merkel’s CDU Conservative Party, smokes a cigarette on the terrace of his house in Cassel, Hesse, when he was shot in the head almost immediately.
After two weeks of investigation, a suspect, Stephan Ernst, 46, is arrested near the Neo-Nazi movement, and confesses to the crime, before retreating and accusing an alleged accomplice. Without convincing the investigators.
The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office, which is responsible for the most sensitive cases, accuses him of “aggravated murder” and “attempted murder.” He faces life imprisonment after a trial scheduled for at least the end of October.
The victim’s wife and two sons, who joined the trial, were keen to participate in the trial to “send a clear signal against hate and violence,” family spokesman Dirk Metz said before the trial opened. Their lawyer, Holger Matt, said he was convinced that it was “a planned murder in cold blood, cowardice and treason, with the lowest motivations.”
An alleged employee
Ernst is not alone in the accused’s box. His alleged co-worker, presented as Markus Hartmann, is accused of having trained him in shooting in the woods, “including with the weapon used” for the murder, without being “aware of the actual plans for the attack”.
According to investigators, the two suspects also attended a public meeting during which Walter Lübcke had supported the generous reception policy decided in 2015 by Chancellor Angela Merkel. of this intervention, which was furthest to the right, to the point of inviting opponents to the arrival of refugees to leave Germany.
From this meeting, Stephan Ernst, who was also charged with attempted murder in 2016 with a knife weapon by an Iraqi asylum seeker, considered increasingly prosecuted with his xenophobic hatred of Walter Lübcke. Studies of his computer equipment also revealed, according to multiple media, that he had other potential targets in view: elected officials and a synagogue.
The accused has been known to the authorities for a long time as a neo-Nazi sympathizer with violent potential. Despite his busy past, intelligence services have stopped monitoring him in recent years.
The investigation revealed another police error, previously accused of self-awareness with neo-Nazis: it did not report to the permit authority that the alleged employee was still an active member of the ultra-right. This allowed him to get guns and rifles.
In the 2000s, under the authority of the authorities, despite the murders of eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek and a German police woman by a neo-Nazi group, the threat of right-wing terrorism is today considered a crucial challenge for internal security.
On the side of this trial, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the Germans to actively take a stand against racism. “It is not enough not to be racist, we must be anti-racist,” he said.
In October 2019, a right-wing sympathizer committed almost a massacre on the day of Yom Kippur, in a synagogue in Halle, in the eastern country. He finally turned his gun on a passerby and killed a man in a snack bar. In February, a man killed nine people of foreign origin in two bars in Hanau, near Frankfurt, and then committed suicide.