Alex W., the man who stabbed pregnant Egyptian pharmacist Marwa al-Sherbini to death in a courtroom in Dresden in July, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. The judge imposed the harshest possible sentence under the German system by ruling that W. will not be eligible for parole after 15 years.
International attention to the case was high. Responses to the verdict have generally been positive, except for those who demanded a death sentence or extradition to Egypt for a death penalty, both of which possibilities have been abolished in the EU. The Egyptian ambassador to Germany was pleased with the sentence, as it was the highest possible.
German Muslims warned against growing Islamophobia in Germany, but welcomed the sentence, which is also a sign that Islamophobic currents are not institutionalized in Germany. Many newspapers discuss the fact that society must remain vigilant and it must always ensure an environment in which wearing the veil – an initial spark of the tragedy – does not become life-threatening.
Under tight security, a man stands trial in Dresden on Monday for the murder of a pregnant Egyptian woman that stoked anger against Germany and its media in her home country and the wider Muslim world. The defendant, for legal reasons named only as Alex W, is accused of stabbing to death Marwa al-Sherbini on July 1 in a courtroom.
Alex W, classed by police as xenophobic, attacked Sherbini during an appeal hearing against a fine he was ordered to pay for verbally abusing the woman at a city playground in August 2008. Sherbini, who was pregnant with her second child, was in court with her husband and 3-year-old son when the defendant lunged at her with a knife he had smuggled into the building.
The German and Egyptian governments are to keep in touch during the trial of Alex W, a German national charged with the July 1 murder of Egyptian Marwa al-Sherbini, 31, a senior aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday. Maria Boehmer, Germany’s commissioner for minority affairs, made the announcement after a telephone conversation with the Egyptian ambassador to Germany, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, ahead of the court case due to start Monday.
In early July thousands of mourners took to the streets in Egypt, chanting “Down with Germany.” Thousands more Arabs and Muslims joined them in protests in Berlin. In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added to the outcry by denouncing German “brutality.” The provocation was the murder on July 1 of Marwa al-Sherbini, a pregnant Egyptian pharmacist here. She was stabbed 18 times in a Dresden courtroom, in front of her 3-year-old son, judges and other witnesses, reportedly by the man appealing a fine for having insulted Ms. Sherbini in a park. Identified by German authorities only as a 28-year-old Russian-born German named Alex W., he had called Ms. Sherbini an Islamist, a terrorist and a slut when she asked him to make room for her son on the playground swings. Ms. Sherbini wore a head scarf. The killer also stabbed Elwi Okaz, Ms. Sherbini’s husband and a genetic research scientist, who was critically wounded as he tried to defend her. The police, arriving late on the scene, mistook him for the attacker and shot him in the leg. More than a week passed before the German government, responding to rising anger across the Arab world, expressed words of sorrow while stressing that the attack did occur during the prosecution of a racist and that the accused man was originally from Russia. Dresden is one of the great cultural capitals of Europe. It is also the capital of Saxony, a former part of East Germany that, along with having a reputation as Silicon Saxony, has made more than a few headlines in recent years for incidents of xenophobia and right-wing extremism. One wonders how to reconcile the heights of the city’s culture with the gutter of these events. MICHAEL KIMMELMAN reports.