A neo-Nazi has been jailed for life after being found guilty of the murder of a politician who defended refugees, in a case that has shocked Germany and once again highlighted the threat of far-right violence in the country.
Stephan Ernst, 47, is unlikely to be considered for parole for at least 22 years following his conviction by a court in Frankfurt for murdering regional governor Walter Lübcke in June of 2019.
Lübcke, a member of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, was shot in the head while standing in his garden in the German city of Kassel. He was 65.
Lübcke had become a target of the far-right in Germany after giving a speech in 2015 defending Merkel’s decision to welcome Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war, saying it was the “Christian” thing to do. The court heard that Ernst and his alleged accomplice were believed to have been among the crowd listening to the speech.
The prosecution said Ernst had been motivated by “racism and xenophobia”, but defence lawyers argued the killing was politically motivated and should be tried as manslaughter.
A second defendant, referred to as Markus H. – as is common practice in German criminal trials – was acquitted of accessory to murder but convicted of illegally possessing a firearm, and given an 18-month suspended jail sentence.