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Berlin court sentences teen over kippa attack

Rebecca Staudenmaier with dpa, AFP
June 25, 2018

After an Arab-Israeli man wearing a skullcap was attacked in Berlin, the assailant has now been sentenced to four weeks' detention. The case sparked outrage in Germany, with thousands rallying against anti-Semitism.

A 19-year-old man who confessed to striking two men wearing skullcaps in Berlin with a belt sits in court
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken

A 19-year-old Syrian national was found guilty on Monday of serious bodily harm and verbal abuse after attacking two people in April who were wearing kippas, traditional male Jewish head coverings also known as yarmulkes.

Germany's Jewish Council welcomed the court's decision, saying that the court obviously "hasn't followed the absurd excuses and justifications of the defense." Felix Klein, Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner, also hailed the court's relatively quick decision on the case, saying that whoever carries out anti-Semitic acts or uses anti-Semitic expressions "is outside of society and must reckon with the consequences of the rule of law."

How the court ruled:

  • A Berlin court sentenced him to four weeks of juvenile detention. However, it also ruled that he'd already served the time during his pre-trial detention, meaning the 19-year-old will be released.
  • He will also be placed under special supervision by carers for one year.
  • Berlin-based reporter Frederik Schindler reported that the court also ordered the teen to take part in a tour through the House of the Wannsee Conference — where the Nazis planned the deportation and the murder of European Jews. The judge did not reportedly explicitly name anti-Semitism as a motivating factor behind the attack.

Adam: 'People just walked by'

Attack in broad daylight: On April 17, an Arab-Israeli man and his German-Moroccan friend were attacked while wearing skullcaps and walking down the street in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg. A video of the incident shows the attacker striking at one of the men with a belt while shouting "Yahudi," the Arabic word for Jew. The 21-year-old Israeli man who was attacked told DW that he is not Jewish. He said he decided to put on the skullcap to test whether it was dangerous to wear one openly in Berlin.

A kippah worn by the victim of an attack in Berlin
The skullcap worn by one of the victims of the attack in Berlin was put on display in the city's Jewish MuseumImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Schuldt

'I just wanted to scare him:' The 19-year-old suspect admitted to the assault during his testimony before the court last Tuesday. "I am very sorry, it was a mistake on my part," the defendant said in German. "I didn't want to hit him, I just wanted to scare him." He told the court that drugs also played a role in the attack: "I got stoned, my head was tired." The 19-year-old has denied, however, that the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Outrage over anti-Semitism in Germany: The attack was condemned by religious leaders and politicians in Germany. The incident also sparked protests in Berlin and several other German cities where thousands of people wore skullcaps to protest anti-Semitism. The skullcap worn by the victim was later put on display in Berlin's Jewish Museum as part of a campaign against anti-Semitism.