The man accused of attacking Cologne mayor Henriette Reker has confessed to stabbing the mayor with a hunting knife. Although Reker sustained life-threatening injuries, the defendant has denied trying to kill her.
The prime suspect in the Cologne mayor attack case took the stand on Friday in Düsseldorf's higher regional court.
"It is an extremely terrible thing that I did," the 44-year-old Frank S. told the court.
On October 17 last year, Frank S. drank three beers and attended a campaign event for then-candidate Henriette Reker one day before the mayoral election. He asked Reker for a rose, stabbed her once, and immediately discarded the weapon.
Reker sustained life threatening injuries but managed to survive the attack after being rushed to surgery. She was voted in as the mayor of Cologne on the following day, while she was still in an artificial coma.
Frank S., however, denied intending to kill her during the attack, claiming that the knife blade was "totally dull."
"I wanted to hurt her," he admitted, adding that if he had wanted to kill her, he could have easily done it.
The attacker has been charged with attempted murder - for which he could face a life sentence. Lawyers on the defense claim that the stabbing should be classified as grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
As for the reason for carrying out the attack, the defendant said he was worried about the "self-destruction of Germany."
"I saw it as a final opportunity to change something," he said, saying he wanted to set an example. "The whole political situation depressed me."
According to the prosecutors, Frank S. attacked Reker for her welcoming stance towards refugees and foreigners arriving in Germany. Before running for mayor, Reker was a coordinator in charge of housing refugees in Cologne.
Last week, he admitted to being a member of the right-wing extremist scene in the nearby city of Bonn, and spent time in prison between 1997 and 2000.
The head judge in the case asked the defendant how long he had the email address "Berserker1488" - German far-right extremists often use "88" as code for "HH" or "Heil Hitler," while "14" can stand for "AD" (Auf Deutschland/For Germany) or serve as reference to a 14-word claim from US far-right figure David Eden Lane.
"They can read into it what they will," responded the 44-year-old.
Reker is due to testify in court as a witness in one week.
rs/msh (dpa, epd)