Hamburg prosecutor’s Office sees “no antisemitic motive” in synagogue attack

The Hamburg Public Prosecutor’s Office will not charge suspect in the attack on the synagogue in Hamburg in October 2020 with a criminal offence, but has instead requested for him to be placed in a psychiatric institution.

The decision by the prosecutor has angered many. Since the alleged attacker arrested at the scene at the time is said to suffer from delusions, antisemitism is not being regarded as the primary motive behind the attack.

29-year-old Grigoriy K. is accused of attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm. On October 4th last year, he is alleged to have assaulted a Jewish student with a spade in front of the Hohe Weide synagogue in Hamburg with spade.

The Jewish student was on his way to the synagogue where Sukkot was being celebrated. The victim was seriously injured.

The alleged perpetrator, who was born in Kazakhstan, is said to be mentally ill and therefore not legally responsible for the attack.

The trial will therefore be carried out via the so-called “backup procedure”, which means that the court will not sentence him to prison at the end of the proceedings if found guilty, but will instead order his permanent placement .

At the start of the trial, Grigoriy K. sat in the courtroom with a black hood on his head and handcuffed. After a few minutes, the public was excluded from the proceedings, as is common with “backup procedures”.

A representative of the Hamburg Jewish Community was allowed to attend the hearing as a trial observer. The 26-year-old victim of the attack testified at the trial. According to reports, the young man is still suffering from the consequences today.

However, there are several elements that point to an antisemitic motive. The alleged attacker took a taxi to the synagogue  and is said to have targeted persons wearing kippot, which the victim was wearing at the time

In addition, the attack was committed shortly before the first anniversary of the antisemitic terrorist attack in Halle. Similar to the Halle murderer, he was wearing a camouflage suit. Finally, the police found a note with a drawn swastika next to his pocket knife.

Nevertheless, the public prosecutor’s office is convinced that Grigoriy K. was not legally responsible at the time. An expert attested that the alleged perpetrator had acute paranoid schizophrenia, accompanied by delusional fears of persecution that triggered the offense. The expert saw “no evidence” that “the accused pursued religious, ideological, right-wing extremist or antisemitic goals of his own free will”.

About 25 mostly young people protested the prosecutor’s decision not to assign antisemitic motive to the incident in front of the courthouse with a banner “Against all antisemitism”.

“There is a tradition in Germany of not taking into account the political aspects of the crime when it comes to terrorism that originates from the right and is directed against minorities,” said one participant.

Perpetrators of racist and antisemitic attacks are too often classified as “lone perpetrators” with mental illness. The demonstrators demanded that antisemitism be clearly identified as a motive.

The Jewish community of Hamburg also expressed irritation by the prosecutor’s decision. “It must be recognised that the Jewish community was targeted in a targeted manner,” said Philipp Stricharz, the community’s President. “How can antisemitic acts be prevented in the future if they aren’t identified as such?”, asked Stricharz.

According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, no evidence had been found that Grigoriy K. had antisemitic ideas before the crime. “However, this cannot be completely ruled out at the moment,” the Office declared said.

The slip of paper with a swastika that Grigoriy K. carried in his pocket did not change the investigators’ assessment, “because the accused had been well-meaningly advised to draw things from his private environment to protect himself against the demons and reptilians he was seeing” said the public prosecutor’s office.

The authorities also stated that: “the original meaning of the cross [the swastika] as a symbol of light and the sun should offer protection and bring happiness.” For the prosecutors, the decisive factor is whether the act was carried out in “free will”.

At least, the court had no doubts that the attack was targetting Jews. A representative of the community was allowed to observe the proceedings “because it is assumed that it was a targeted attack on a member of the Jewish community,” said a court spokesman.

Since there is concern about the health of Grigoriy K., the trial will continue without the accused. A verdict is expected to be pronounced at the end of March.

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