The Halle assassin must go to prison for life. However, the court showed too little interest in the right-wing extremist breeding ground of the deeds.
The perpetrator receives the maximum sentence from the Magdeburg Regional Court. But is that enough? Photo: Ronny Hartmann/Pool/dpa
The maximum penalty was foreseeable. The assassin of Halle murdered two people on October 9, 2019, attempted to storm a synagogue and permanently injured the lives of countless people. The acts are considered particularly despicable under criminal law, the severity of guilt as particularly high, the motives as low. The perpetrator will serve life in prison with subsequent preventive detention – that’s as far as it goes. And yet, after the Magdeburg verdict, the question remains: Is that enough?
The statements made during the trial made one thing clear: anyone seeking justice for an ideologically motivated crime should also look away from the perpetrator. From the very beginning of the trial, a group of victims pleaded as the joint plaintiff to look beyond the myth of the lone perpetrator. How widespread are the ideologies represented by the perpetrator and in which network, in which society was he able to radicalize himself unhindered?
The findings of the investigators in charge were shamefully thin. Relevant platforms on which the perpetrator moved appeared to be virtually unknown, and existing data carriers were only superficially sifted through. The gap, which was created by poor commitment, could only be filled to a certain extent by experts proposed by the Nebenklage. It is certainly the task of the criminal justice system to protect society from the accused perpetrator. But how sustainable is the protection against a perpetrator whose ideological environment remains untouched?
Observers of the trial experienced a judge who defended against the ideological statements of the defendant, who did not repeat his words, at least not in the verdict, who went beyond the courtroom into an exchange with those affected, and who gave space to the plaintiffs. She confronted the question of what criminal justice can do and what it should do. It stretched the possibilities and yet moved within the limits of its possibilities.
The verdict may mean closure for the defendant. But many of those affected are unlikely to find justice in it. The ideological motives were named. What these mean and what consequences they require beyond the courtroom are not given enough attention in the verdict.
Racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny are not subjective sensitivities, but collective hatred. As long as the authorities, but also society as a whole, prove incapable of recognizing and resolutely combating this, the danger to those affected will remain real. Even if not through this perpetrator.