In the trial of the murderer of the Kassel government president Lübcke, the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court fully exhausted the possible sentence: The main defendant received life imprisonment. The co-defendant remains free on probation.
Because of the murder of the Kassel District President Walter Lübcke, the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court sentenced the main defendant Stephan E. to life imprisonment. When pronouncing the verdict, the judges also determined the particular severity of the guilt.
This means that early release after 15 years is as good as impossible. The decision on subsequent preventive detention was reserved for a second court hearing at the end of the prison term, said the presiding judge Thomas Sagebiel.
The judges saw it as proven that E. shot the North Hessian district president on his terrace in the Kassel district on the night of June 2, 2019. The 47-year-old acted accordingly from a right-wing extremist, xenophobic motive. “He projected xenophobia onto Dr. Lübcke.”
Probation for co-defendants
Markus H., who was originally accused of complicity in the murder of Lübcke, was sentenced to a suspended sentence of one year and six months for violating the Weapons Act. The court set the probation period for three years. H. was acquitted of the charge of complicity in murder. That leaves him at large.
E. had repeatedly confessed to the crime – but in three different versions. He last incriminated co-defendant H., who was at the scene of the crime. But in view of contradictions and statements adapted to the situation, one had “considerable doubts” about this version, the court said.
Chance of a dropout program
Stephan E.’s descriptions are only credible with regard to his own part of the crime. But despite the contradictions, the confessions worked in E.’s favor, said the presiding judge Sagebiel.
It is true that the court had no leeway in terms of sentencing to life imprisonment and determining the particular gravity of the guilt. But E. now has the opportunity to work with a dropout program for right-wing extremists, to influence the minimum sentence to be served and to avoid preventive detention.
The trial, including the delivery of the verdict, took 45 days. The Lübckes family – his wife and two sons – was one of the joint plaintiffs. The act is considered the first right-wing extremist murder of a politician in the Federal Republic.
E. was acquitted of the charge of stabbing an Iraqi refugee from behind in 2016 and seriously injuring him. There are circumstances that indicate the perpetrator, but no solid evidence, said Sagebiel.
“Appropriate response to this terrible act”
The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed the verdict. It is an “appropriate response to this terrible act”. At the same time, the court is sending a clear signal against racism and right-wing extremism said President Josef Schuster. In addition, the process revealed failures by the security authorities, which the investigative committee in the Hessian state parliament will investigate, emphasized Schuster.
“It is to be hoped that knowledge will be gained that will make it possible to better illuminate right-wing networks in the future and from which the appropriate consequences can then be drawn.” The state’s monopoly of force must never be in question.
Reker: Closed your eyes for too long
The mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, was also satisfied. You very much appreciate that the court has recognized murder and not manslaughter, said Reker. The process is now complete. On the other hand, the conflict with right-wing extremism should not be over.
“Since the NSU murders at the latest, we shouldn’t have turned a blind eye to political murders from the right corner,” said Reker. The non-party politician was critically injured by a right-wing extremist assassin in 2015.
Victims ombudsman calls for political consequences
The federal government’s commissioner for victims, Edgar Franke, called for further political consequences. The judgment is an important step in the legal processing of the right-wing extremist attack, said Franke. Now the political reappraisal must continue. “This murder, driven by hatred and inhumanity, remains a warning: We have to protect democracy much more decisively at all levels than before,” said Franke.
For many who are politically active, threats have become an almost everyday occurrence. Again and again, mayors who feared for their families turned to him, said Franke. Local politicians should be better protected than before. The federal and state governments would have to do a lot more for this.