Palestinian convict handed a life term for claiming two German lives in Knife attack


Wednesday, 15 May 2024 (16:33 IST)
A court in Itzehoe on Wednesday sentenced a 34-year-old man to life in prison for killing two people and stabbing several others on a local train in northern Germany last January.

A 17-year-old and her 19-year-old boyfriend were killed in the attack, four others were wounded. The train was running from Hamburg to Kiel in northern Germany; it was stopped and the man was apprehended in the small town of Brokstedt.

What were the charges?

The Palestinian national Ibrahim A. faced two charges of murder and four of attempted murder, with the prosecution also seeking to demonstrate the "particular severity of guilt" required in Germany for a full conviction akin to first-degree murder in the US.

Securing this makes it much less likely that the prisoner would be automatically eligible for release after 15 years, which is standard for other life sentences.

The prosecution had called for a life sentence, the toughest penalty German law allows for.

Judge Johann Lohmann followed the prosecution's recommendations in Wednesday's verdict, calling the trial "extraordinary" and calling the crime "exceptionally distressing."

The defense, meanwhile, had argued that the client was not eligible for criminal prosecution because of a psychiatric illness and that he should be sent for specialist care and observation. If the court found otherwise, it had recommended two counts of manslaughter and four charges akin to grievous bodily harm.

One expert witness and the judge, however, had already hinted that they did not see evidence of a full psychosis in the defendant, despite clear signs of psychotic symptoms.

The case took more than 10 months and involved 38 trial days and 97 witnesses or other experts.Palestinian national, thought to be upset at looming departure from Germany

The defendant had originally denied the charges in court, before admitting to the acts.

The 34-year-old grew up in Gaza and had been in Germany since 2014 but was still trying to secure residency rights.

The prosecution alleged that frustration following an unsuccessful appointment at the migration office in Kiel, seeking one of the last legal avenues to stay in the country that was still open to him, led to him stealing a knife from a supermarket and then attacking people on the train with it.

The case also had political ramifications because of an apparent lack of communication between police and other relevant authorities.

The man had spent the days immediately before the attack in police custody, suspected of a separate crime in Hamburg. It later transpired that officials had noted his unruly behavior and the possibility of a psychotic illness during this period. (AFP, dpa)

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