BERLIN – A Syrian man went on trial on Monday over an alleged knife killing that triggered racist street riots the eastern German city of Chemnitz.
The trail of the suspect, named by the court as 23-year-old Alaa Sheikhi, had to be held in the city of Dresden, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony, for security reasons after assaults on migrants and far-right riots were reported in Chemnitz following the victim’s death.
Ricarda Lang, lawyer for the defense, began by questioned the independence of the court as she asked if the judges were members or supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and whether they had taken part in demonstrations organized by the Islamophobic organization Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) or the far-right Pro-Chemnitz movement, German media reported.
The Syrian, who denied all accusations relating to the events that took place on Aug. 26 when the killing took place, stood indicted of homicide, attempted homicide and grievous bodily harm.
Lang requested the suspension of the trial and for her client to be released from custody, arguing the charges did not match the facts.
The authorship of the crime was not clear, she argued.
The killing allegedly was the result of a fight between four men, the victim and one of his friends – a German-Russian citizen who was injured in the alleged scuffle – the accused and another man who had been identified only as Farah A, a 22-year-old Iraqi who was on the run.
According to Focus news magazine, no DNA evidence linking the crime to the accused was found on the knife that was used in the crime.
DNA traces of the victim, his wounded friend and a third person were identified on the weapon after analysis.
There were no witnesses, according to the magazine.
Chemnitz, with some 246,353 inhabitants, is linked to the neo-Nazi movement in Germany and the AfD was the most voted political party at the 2017 general elections, securing 27 percent of the votes there.
On the same day the trial opened, several hundred neo-Nazis and soccer fans gathered in Chemnitz to honor the funeral of far-right extremist Thomas Haller, who was a fan of Chemnitzer Football Club, which plays in the “Regionalliga,” the fourth tier of German football.
Fans held a tribute to Haller, leader of the far-right group “HooNaRa” (Hooligans Nazis Racists), at the soccer club’s stadium last week, which triggered a debate in the country about extremism in the sport.