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'One of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since WWII'

German prosecutors seek life sentence for Halle synagogue shooter

Prosecutor says Stephan Balliet was motivated by a ‘racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideology’ to carry out deadly attack on Yom Kippur

Stephan Balliet, who is accused of shooting dead two people after an attempt to storm a synagogue in Halle, is seen during his trial on November 18, 2020, at the district court in Magdeburg, Germany. (Ronny Hartmann/AFP)
Stephan Balliet, who is accused of shooting dead two people after an attempt to storm a synagogue in Halle, is seen during his trial on November 18, 2020, at the district court in Magdeburg, Germany. (Ronny Hartmann/AFP)

BERLIN — Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded life behind bars for a man accused of killing two people in an anti-Semitic attack in the German city of Halle last year.

Stephan Balliet, 28, is accused of trying to storm a synagogue filled with worshippers in the attack on October 9, 2019, during Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

After failing to break down the door, the attacker shot dead a female passer-by and a man at a kebab shop instead.

“The attack on the synagogue in Halle was one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II,” prosecutor Kai Lohse told a court in Magdeburg.

Federal public prosecutor Kai Lohse (front) at the trial against Stephan Balliet, who is accused of shooting dead two people after an attempt to storm a synagogue in Halle is seen during his trial on November 18, 2020, at the district court in Magdeburg, Germany. (Ronny Hartmann/AFP)

Lohse said Balliet had acted on the basis of a “racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideology” to carry out an attack against not only those he killed but “Jewish life in Germany as a whole.”

The events that unfolded were like a “nightmare,” he added.

“At the end of this nightmare, the perpetrator murdered two people and injured and traumatized numerous others.”

During the trial, Balliet had insisted to the court that “attacking the synagogue was not a mistake, they are my enemies.”

He has been charged with two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder in a case that has deeply rattled the country and fueled alarm about rising right-wing extremism and anti-Jewish violence, 75 years after the end of the Nazi era.

An armed man believed to be gunman Stephan Balliet, on a street in Halle, Germany, during a shooting outside a synagogue in that city which killed two, October 9, 2019. (Screenshot/Andreas Splett/ATV-Studio Halle/AFP)

Following the public prosecutor’s summary, lawyers of co-plaintiffs will in turn sum up their case.

The defense will then make its last statement before the court hands down a verdict, likely in December.

The government’s point man against anti-Semitism, Felix Klein, called the trial “a good opportunity to bring about debate in society about anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Semitic crimes have risen steadily in Germany in recent years, with 2,032 offenses recorded in 2019, up 13 percent on the previous year.

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