Prosecutors demand life for court killing suspect

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 8:13 AM

Prosecutors on Monday demanded a life sentence for a man who admitted to fatally stabbing a pregnant Egyptian woman in a German court in a case that triggered outrage across the Muslim world.

Prosecutor Frank Heinrich said in closing arguments in Dresden state court that the suspect acted out of hatred for foreigners and deserved to be convicted and given the maximum penalty.

"It's clear that his motive was hatred for Muslims," Heinrich told the panel of judges. "Like a maniacal, cold-blooded killer, he started stabbing the woman and her husband, who was trying to protect her."

During his trial, suspect Alexander Wiens admitted to stabbing Marwa al-Sherbini to death during the July 1 court hearing. The 28-year-old Russian-born Wiens said, however, that his actions were not premeditated and that he had no xenophobic motivation.

His attorneys were scheduled to give their closing remarks later in the day.

Many German courts, including the one where the killing took place, have no security checks at their entrance. Prosecutors said the defendant used a kitchen knife with a 7-inch (18-centimeter) blade that he had brought into the courtroom in a backpack.

Al-Sherbini, a 31-year-old pharmacist, was stabbed at least 16 times in the Dresden courtroom where she was to testify against the suspect. She had filed a complaint against him in 2008, accusing him of insulting her with racial slurs.

Her husband, a scientist conducting research in Dresden, was stabbed and suffered serious injuries when he intervened to protect her. The couple's 3-year-old son was in the courtroom and witnessed the attack.

In addition to murder, Wiens faces charges of attempted murder and bodily harm for his attack on al-Sherbini's husband, Elwy Okaz.

Wiens, now a German citizen, was born in the Russian city of Perm and has lived in Germany since late 2003.

Egyptians expressed outrage at the attack and an initially low-key German response, which many viewed as a sign of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment. The week after the killing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her condolences to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak but did not comment publicly.

In his sharply worded closing statement, Heinrich said people like al-Sherbini and her husband were exactly the kind of immigrants Germany needs, in contrast with Wiens.

"What we definitely don't need are people like the accused, who came here with crude ideas and think they are somehow special because they hold German citizenship," Heinrich said.

A verdict and sentence are expected Wednesday.