search

Halle synagogue attack suspect silenced at trial after denying Holocaust

Stephan Balliet is accused of trying to storm place of worship during Yom Kippur service in what prosecution calls ‘one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II’

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)

A man accused of killing two people in an anti-Semitic attack in Germany last year was cut off during final testimony at his trial on Wednesday after he denied the Holocaust.

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

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

Balliet told the court in nearby Magdeburg that the proceedings against him were a “show trial” and denied the Holocaust, drawing shouts of protest from the co-plaintiffs on the benches.

Judge Ursula Mertens interrupted the speech and reminded him that denying the Holocaust is a criminal offense in Germany.

Balliet had previously denied the Holocaust during his trial, spouted racist and misogynist conspiracy theories and insisted that “attacking the synagogue was not a mistake, they are my enemies.”

Bullet holes still visible in the wooden door of the synagogue in Halle, Germany, July 20, 2020. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Defense lawyer Hans-Dieter Weber said on Wednesday that Balliet’s life in the run-up to the attack had been “characterized by constantly increasing social isolation.”

Weber disputed a psychiatrist’s claim that Balliet could be held fully responsible despite a complex personality disorder, pointing to the defendant’s increasing inability to interact with other people.

In his own closing statement three weeks ago, prosecutor Kai Lohse called for life in jail for Balliet and described the attack as “Balliet

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.”

Stephan Balliet, who is accused of shooting dead two people after an attempt to storm a synagogue in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany, is led by a police officer into the courtroom for the start of the 24th day of his trial on November 3, 2020 at the district court in Magdeburg, eastern Germany. (Ronny Hartmann / AFP)

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.”

Balliet 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.

The court is expected to hand down its verdict on December 21.

read more:
comments