German prosecutors said Monday they suspect a far-right motive in the assassination-style murder of a pro-migrant city official that stunned the country two weeks ago.
This would make the night-time killing of Walter Luebcke, 65, with a close-range gun shot to the head “a political assassination,” they said.
A man in custody, identified only as 45-year-old Stephan E., is believed to have killed Kassel city administration chief Luebcke on June 2, federal prosecutors said.
“There is sufficient evidence pointing to a right-wing extremist background to the crime,” said the prosecutors’ statement, citing “the life history of the accused, and his publicly expressed opinions and views”.
Investigators were looking into possible co-conspirators but so far had “no evidence that the accused was part of a terrorist network,” they said.
Luebcke, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, was shot dead in the early hours of June 2 on the terrace of his home near Kassel, 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of Frankfurt.
At the height of Europe’s 2015 mass refugee influx, he had passionately spoken out in defence of migrants, drawing the fury of the far right for telling xenophobes that they “could leave Germany”.
Since his death, hundreds of posts from social media accounts tied to right-wing extremists have hailed his murder, in turn drawing strong condemnations from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other politicians.
Justice Minister Katarina Barley said she was horrified not just by the “unspeakable crime” but also by the “online agitation, the threats and finally — after his death — the mockery of Walter Luebcke”.
– Pipe-bomb attack –
Stephan E., reportedly a married father of two, was arrested Saturday by police commandos in Kassel, Hesse state, on the basis of DNA evidence.
On Monday the case was handed over to the federal prosecution service, which deals with major crimes motivated by political and religious extremism.
While police and prosecutors publicly released few details, German media citing unnamed investigators reported that the suspect was known to have extensive links with far-right extremism.
News site Zeit Online said Stephan E. had been previously sentenced to jail for a 1993 failed pipe-bomb attack on an asylum seekers’ home in Hesse.
Der Spiegel weekly reported he received a seven-month suspended jail term a decade ago after he had joined hundreds of right-wing radicals in an attack on a May 1 Labour Day march in Dortmund.
He had also repeatedly come to police attention for other acts of violence, weapons and property offences, the magazine reported, adding that he was also believed to have had connections with the neo-Nazi NPD party.
News channel NTV meanwhile linked the suspect to the fascist militant group Combat 18, the number of which stands for the first and eight letters of the alphabet, the initials of Adolf Hitler.
– Racist hate –
If the shooting death was indeed motivated by right-wing extremism, it is believed it would be postwar Germany’s first murder of a politician committed by a far-right perpetrator.
Three opposition parties — the Greens, Free Democrats and far-left Die Linke — urged a special parliamentary hearing into the case.
In past attacks, several German politicians have been badly injured, among them parliamentary speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble who has used a wheelchair since surviving a 1990 shooting by a deranged assailant.
Cologne city mayor Henriette Reker survived a 2015 knife assault by a man angered by her pro-refugee stance.
From the 1970s to early 1990s, Germany was terrorised by the far-left Red Army Faction, which emerged out of the anti-Vietnam war movement, with shootings, bombings and kidnappings targeting politicians, police, bankers, business leaders and US troops.
More recently Germany was shocked to learn that the far-right militant group National Socialist Underground (NSU) killed nine Turkish and Greek-born immigrants and a German policewoman from 2000 to 2007, and carried out bomb attacks and bank robberies.
Free Democrats lawmaker Benjamin Strasser was among politicians sounding the alarm on Monday, telling media group RND that “for years, threats from the extreme right against politicians have been on the rise”.
“We need to decisively clear up and take effective measures against right-wing terrorist structures.”
Russian disqualified from Tango competition for punching his partner
A Russian participant in the World Tango Championships in Buenos Aires has been disqualified for violence towards his partner, the organizers said Wednesday.
The incident happened after the duo, a husband and wife, took part in the semi-final of the competition on Tuesday in the Argentine capital.
Organizers condemned the assault plus "assisted the victim and made the decision to disqualify the dancer," said a source with the Championships who declined to be named.
Officials did not name the couple in order "to preserve the identity of the victim who declined to file a complaint."
‘His mommy should have told him she loved him a little bit more’: CNN analyst eviscerates Trump over ‘chosen one’ comments’
On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," analyst Gloria Borger laid into President Donald Trump for his bizarre press conference anointing himself "the chosen one."
"'I am the chosen one,' and that comes after the president re-tweeted a conspiracy theorist radio host who said that he is like the second coming," said host Brianna Keilar. "So what do you make of all of this?"
"I think maybe his mommy should have told him she loved him a little bit more," said Borger. "I don't know. It is hard — it is hard to know what to make of this. Some people will say, as Trump says, 'Oh, I was only joking when I said all of that stuff.' But the truth of the matter is that he does this all of the time, and talks about how wonderful he is, and if you recall during his speech at the convention when he talked about the problems the country was facing he was saying 'I alone can fix it.'"
Trump’s ‘fake concern’ for Jews doesn’t mask his anti-Semitism, say critics
"By his continued encouragement of white supremacy and his daily racist attacks on immigrants and people of color, Trump is making the American Jewish community less safe by the day."
President Donald Trump doubled down on his accusations of disloyalty to Jewish-Americans who vote for Democrats during an impromptu press conference Wednesday, prompting a fresh round of recriminations from critics.
"If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel," the president said during remarks to reporters on the White House South Lawn.