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Cologne's mayor recounts brutal stabbing

April 29, 2016

Cologne's new mayor, who survived a neck stabbing while electioneering last year, has faced her attacker in court. Henriette Reker said she was "very afraid" at the time that she would be paralyzed.

Düsseldorf Prozess Attentat auf Kölner OB-Spitzenkandidatin Henriette Reker
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

Henriette Reker said Friday that the 44-year-old defendant first offered her a rose and then in a lightning move drew out a hunting knife and rammed it into her neck.

"I remember how Frank S. approached me on the market square and offered me a rose in a very friendly manner," Reker said, omitting the defendant's full name in conformance with German privacy law.

"I landed on the ground and noticed that I was bleeding in the mouth and nose," she testified while recalling the attack on October 17, the eve of Cologne's mayoral run-off election.

"I was very afraid that I could be paralyzed," Reker added, recounting her initial thoughts before the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf, the capital of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia.

Düsseldorf Angeklagter im Fall Rekers vor Gericht
Trial opening: Frank S. shelters behind a folderImage: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

Elected while in coma

Residents elected her as mayor one day later while Reker lay in an artificially induced coma. She took up full mayoral duties in January but still continues to receive medical treatment.

October's knifing shocked Germany as debate mounted over the decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in September to keep borders open for "Balkan route" refugees, especially from war-torn Syria.

Reker had previously been Cologne city's top social welfare official, with responsibility for accommodating refugees.

Frank S. had told the court on May 15 as the trial opened that he had been formerly involved in the neo-Nazi scene in the Bonn area during the 1990s and had attacked Reker to send a signal that he did not agree with her open policy toward refugees.

Four bystanders also sustained knife wounds before Frank S. was detained on the spot.

Deutschland Rosenmontagszug in Köln
Back in form: Reker in Carnival kit in February.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

Life jail sentence?

If convicted of a charge of attempted murder, the defendant could be jailed for life.

At the trial opening, prosecutors said the man had "decided to kill his victim."

His lawyers, however, argued for a lesser charge of grievous bodily harm, which can result in up to 10 years' jail under German law.

ipj/kms (epd, dpa, AFD)

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