The trial of two German far-right neo-Nazi extremists accused of murdering a pro-refugee politician has begun in Frankfurt. Walter Lübcke was killed execution style at his home last year.
A German court on Tuesday began hearing the legal case against two alleged neo-Nazis accused of killing a regional German politician last year. The crime that rocked the country and highlighted the growing threat of right-wing neo-Nazi extremism.
The defendants — identified as Stephan E. and Markus H. in accordance with Germany's privacy laws — appeared Tuesday at the higher regional court in Frankfurt.
The trial kicked off with the defense team's request that the trial be suspended and the presiding judge replaced on grounds of bias, DW's Sonja Jordans reported from the courtroom.
The case focuses on the killing of Walter Lübcke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkels conservative Christian Democratic party who led the regional administration in Kassel in the western state of Hesse. Lübcke was shot in the head on his porch on June 1, 2019 and died later that night.
Stephan E. stands accused of Lübcke's murder, along with separate charges of attempted murder, serious bodily harm, and firearms offenses.
Markus H. has been charged with being an accessory to the murder and breaking firearms laws. He is accused of helping Lübcke train with firearms.
If proven as such in court, the killing would become Germany's first known and successful far-right political assassination since World War II.
Pro-immigration stance prompts threats of violence
Stephan E. and Markus H. were both in attendance at an October 2015 town hall event where Lübcke defended Germany's decision to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees to enter the country.
A video of Lübcke saying that anyone who did not agree with those values was "free to leave the country" was shared widely in far-right circles and drew many threats.
Separately, Stephan E. is also alleged to have stabbed an Iraqi asylum-seeker in the back. The attack severed two nerves and resulted in injury to the victim's spine.
The 46-year-old was only linked to the alleged attempted murder after police found the knife used in the attack when he was arrested for Lübcke's killing last summer. Authorities also found multiple illegal firearms in Stephan E.'s possession, including three revolvers, two pistols, two rifles, a submachine gun, and 1,400 bullets.
Previous charges in bomb attack
Prosecutors said Stephan E.'s motivations were based in his "right-wing extremist hatred of refugees."
Stephan E. had already been convicted in the attempted 1993 bomb attack on an asylum home.
Stephan E. initially admitted to killing Lübcke and said that he acted alone, but later walked back the claim and said Markus H. had pulled the trigger.
Lübcke's widow and two sons will participate in the trail as co-plaintiffs, in line with German law.
Spokesman for Lübcke's family Dirk Metz told reporters it was "a difficult day" for them.
"The family wants to send a clear signal against hatred and violence" by taking part in the trial, he said. "One cannot fall silent the face of such violence."
The trial is scheduled to last through at least October.
kp/aw (AFP, AP)