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Germany to tighten law on anti-Semitic crimes after Halle synagogue attack

Change is part of a package of new government measures, including obligating social media networks to report online death threats and incitement of racial hatred to police

Policemen stand in front of a wall of the Jewish cemetery close to the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany, on October 9, 2019 (Sebastian Willnow / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT
Policemen stand in front of a wall of the Jewish cemetery close to the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany, on October 9, 2019 (Sebastian Willnow / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT

Germany is planning to tighten legislation on anti-Semitic crimes, a minister said on Thursday following a deadly attack aimed at a synagogue in Halle in former east Germany last month.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht told German Parliament that anti-Semitism would be made an aggravating factor for hate crimes in the criminal code.

The current law mentions discrimination against particular groups as an aggravating factor but does not refer to anti-Semitism specifically.

“I am ashamed that Jews in Germany no longer feel safe and that so many are even thinking of leaving the country,” Lambrecht told Parliament.

German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht attends a news conference on a package of measures against far-right extremism and anti-Semitism in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, October 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

“We have to send a clear signal against anti-Semitism.”

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the change was “an important step towards a consistent punishment of anti-Semitic crimes.”

The change is part of a package of government measures announced since the Halle attack, including obligating social media networks to report online death threats and incitement of racial hatred to police.

In the Halle attack, a gunman opened fire on a kebab shop after earlier trying and failing to storm a synagogue. He killed a 20-year-old customer in the shop and a female passer-by before being arrested.

Anti-Semitic offenses rose by almost 10 percent in Germany last year, with violent attacks going up more than 60%, according to preliminary police data released in February.

Police recorded 1,646 offenses motivated by hatred against Jews, the highest level in a decade.

Among these were 62 violent offenses that left 43 people injured, up from 37 physical attacks the previous year, the data showed.

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