Suspect on trial for Halle Yom Kippur synagogue attack
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Suspect on trial for Halle Yom Kippur synagogue attack

Stephan Balliet, 28, is alleged to have posted an antisemitic essay online reportedly attempting to force his way into a shul with 52 congregants inside

The accused Stephan Balliet is sitting in the Regional Court at the beginning of the trial.  Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa-Zentralbild/Pool/dpa
The accused Stephan Balliet is sitting in the Regional Court at the beginning of the trial. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa-Zentralbild/Pool/dpa

A German man has gone on trial for a Yom Kippur attack on a synagogue that is considered one of the worst antisemitic assaults in the country’s post-war history.

The trial comes at a time when antisemitic crimes have reached their highest level since Germany started tracking such offences in 2001, amid an overall increase in right-wing extremism.

Stephan Balliet, 28, is alleged to have posted an antisemitic essay before carrying out the attack on October 9 in the eastern German city of Halle, and broadcast the shooting live on a popular gaming site.

The attacker tried but failed repeatedly to force his way into the synagogue as 52 worshippers were inside. Prosecutors allege he then shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop as an “appropriate target” with immigrant roots.

Balliet is charged with 13 crimes including murder and attempted murder, along with bodily harm, incitement and other charges. Forty-three victims and relatives have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under German law.

Igor Matviyets, a member of Halle’s Jewish community, who stood vigil with dozens of others outside the court building, said he worried the assault would be considered a crime against Jews only and not as an attack on the entire society.

A person with a flag of Israel stands next to flowers and candles in front of a synagogue in Halle, Germany, following a terror shooting on Yom Kippur (AP Photo/Jens Meyer via Jewish News)

“That is something I’m trying to fight against,” Mr Matviyets told The Associated Press. “Because everyone could become a target of far-right crime, of far-right terrorists.”

During his attack, Balliet was armed with eight firearms, several explosive devices, a helmet and a protective vest, according to the charge. Prosecutors have said the weapons were apparently homemade.

Following the attack, the suspect fled the city, wounding another two people in a small town near Halle where he abandoned his car and stole a taxi. Balliet was arrested about 90 minutes after the attack as he got out of a taxi which had been in an accident.

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Joseph Schuster, called the attack “one of the worst antisemitic incidents of the last years in Germany”.

“The suffering of the people in the Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur remains inconceivable,” he said in a statement. “It was a miracle that they could evade this massacre.”

As the attacker tried to break into the synagogue, terrified worshippers inside were able to watch him through a surveillance camera.

Mr Schuster demanded that the court looks into all aspects of the attack, and continues to investigate whether the suspect had any support from others.

German authorities vowed to step up measures against far-right extremism following the killing of a regional politician by a suspected neo-Nazi, the attack on the Halle synagogue and the fatal shooting of nine people of immigrant background in Hanau over the past year.

A lawyer for the co-plaintiffs, Juri Goldstein, said the trial was also about trying to find out how somebody could develop so much hatred “for people that he doesn’t know at all.”

read more:
comments