The Territorial Court of Frankfurt has sentenced to life imprisonment this Thursday Stephan Ernst, a 47-year-old German neo-Nazi, perpetrator of the murder on June 2, 2019 of Walter Lübcke , a prominent politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the State of Hesse, who defended the immigration policy promoted by Chancellor and party colleague Angela Merkel.
The court maintains that the crime had extreme right-wing motivations and qualifies it as the highest degree of gravity, which eliminates the possibility of an automatic review or commutation after 15 years in prison.
The crime awakened in the summer of 2019 the specter of far-right terrorism in Germany and its conviction marks a new milestone in the application of justice in Germany. Thursday’s conviction was very significant, as Lübcke’s was the first murder of a German elected representative by a far-right sympathizer since 1945.
“The murder conviction leaves no doubt as to the guilt of the accused,” said Chief Justice Thomas Sagebiel. “We know that we can barely quantify his loss and that the trial was very painful. Our task was to carry out a fair trial and judge without taking personal interests into account ”, he added, in a passage of the verdict addressed to the victim’s family.
During the trial, which began last June, the murderer apologized to the widow and the rest of the family and confessed to being the author of the murder. His lawyer, although he admitted that the murder had been “cruel and cowardly”, defended that it had had “a political objective”.
On the night of June 2, 2019, Walter Lübcke, 65, who served as Chairman of the Council of Kassel, the city of the State of Hesse where he resided, was smoking a cigarette on the terrace of his home when he received shot to the head almost point blank.
After two weeks of investigation, Stephan Ernst was arrested . Shortly afterwards, Markus H. was also arrested as an alleged accomplice; this Thursday he was sentenced to one year and six months of probation for violating German law on possession of weapons. The prosecution had accused Markus H. of having trained Ernst to shoot in the forest, “even with the weapon used” for the murder, without being aware of his “real plans”.
According to the indictment, the two suspects had attended a public meeting together in which Lübcke had supported Angela Merkel’s immigration policy. Between 2015 and 2016, more than a million refugees were admitted to Germany, mostly Syrians, giving wings to the far right. Alternative for Germany (AfD) managed to enter the federal Parliament in the 2017 parliamentary elections.
The trial against Ernst, which was carried out under strict security measures and which lasted over 44 hearings, also exposed the negligence of the authorities, who had been holding the murderer since the end of the eighties for his neo-Nazi ideology and its potentially violent nature.
As early as 1993, he was suspected of planning a bomb attack on a home for asylum seekers. In 2009, he participated in a race riots in Dortmund. Despite his past, the intelligence services had stopped monitoring him.
Shortly after the sentence was known, the leader of the CDU, Armin Laschet, a party partner of the murdered Lübcke, called for a resolute opposition to hatred and incitement to violence in everyday life.
“Because the evil word is followed by the criminal act: that is one of the terrible lessons of the murder of our friend Walter Lübcke,” Laschet wrote in a statement posted on the CDU website. “We are all responsible for working for peaceful cohesion, each in his own place,” Laschet added.