German extremist convicted of murder after synagogue attack

Full Screen
1 / 4

(c) dpa-Zentralbild-POOL

The defendant Stephan Balliet sits in the courtroom of the district court on the 26th day of the trial before the court's verdict in Magdeburg, Germany, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. The Federal Prosecution accuses the Halle assassin of 13 crimes, including murder and attempted murder. The assassin had tried to cause carnage in the synagogue in Halle on Oct.19, 2019 on the highest Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. (Hendrik Schmidt/Pool via AP)

BERLIN – A German court on Monday convicted a right-wing extremist of murder and attempted murder and sentenced him to life in prison for his attack on a synagogue last year on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day. He killed two people after he failed to gain entry to the building.

The Oct. 9, 2019, attack is considered one of the worst anti-Semitic assaults in Germany’s post-war history.

The 28-year-old defendant, Stephan Balliet, posted a screed against Jews before trying to shoot his way into the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle while broadcasting the attack live on a popular gaming site.

He was convicted of two counts of murder, 66 counts of attempted murder, bodily harm and incitement, among other offenses.

Judges at the Naumburg state court, which met in Saxony-Anhalt state's capital of Magdeburg for security and capacity reasons, on Monday found him “seriously culpable." That means he will be effectively barred from early release after 15 years, which is typical for people in Germany given life sentences.

Presiding Judge Ursula Mertens described it as a “cowardly attack” as she announced the verdict, news agency dpa reported. Balliet showed no reaction but took notes.

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

Balliet was able to flee the scene, but was caught about 1½ hours after his assault started as he abandoned a stolen taxi following an accident.