Man charged over German court killing

Prosecutors on Tuesday filed murder charges against a man who fatally stabbed a pregnant Egyptian woman in a German court — a killing that caused outrage in her native country and beyond. The 28-year-old Russian-born German, identified only as Alex W., acted out of “hatred for non-Europeans and Muslims” in the July 1 killing, prosecutors in the eastern city of Dresden said in a statement.

Marwa al-Sherbini, a 31-year-old pharmacist, was stabbed at least 16 times in a 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 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, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, prosecutors charged the assailant with attempted murder and bodily harm for his attack on el-Sherbini’s husband, Elwy Okaz.

The charges were filed with the state court in Dresden, which will now allow the defendant to respond, and then will decide whether and when a trial should start. Prosecutors said they did not expect further information for
“a few weeks.” A psychiatric expert has found no evidence that the man is unfit to stand trial, they added. 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. Iran also protested the slaying. Al-Sherbini had already testified once against the man in court in November 2008, after which he was fined for calling her a “terrorist” at a playground.

He had returned to court on July 1 to challenge the fine. Because the man was not considered a threat and had not been held in detention before the court session, there was no special security surrounding the hearing. 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. Lars Rischke reports.

In Dresden, High Culture and Ugly Reality Clash

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.

ADC Letter to German Ambassador Urges Investigation into anti-Muslim Hate Crime

Today, in a letter to German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth, the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) expressed its somber concern over
the heinous murder of an Egyptian woman in a courtroom in Dresden, Germany.

According to reports, Marwa Al-Sherbini was stabbed to death 18 times in a German courtroom while her husband, who tried to intervene, was also stabbed by the attacker and shot in the leg by a security officer who mistook him to be the attacker. Al-Sherbini was three months pregnant and was murdered in-front of her three-year old son.

Ms. Al-Sherbini was involved in a lawsuit against the alleged attacker who had called her a “terrorist” because she was wearing the Muslim headscarf or hijab. She was scheduled to testify against him when this horrendous act took place. Ms. Al-Sherbini was wearing her hijab at the time of the attack. The
prosecutor at the hearing, described the attacker as having a deep hatred towards Muslims.

In the letter to Ambassador Scharioth, ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said, “We understand that a comprehensive legal investigation is being conducted by German authorities. However, this heinous crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This attack is but the most recent incident involving anti-Muslim hate and intolerance targeted against the Muslim community in Germany.” The letter continued, “It is our hope that German authorities will use all available legal means to classify this as a hate-motivated murder and report it to the appropriate agencies monitoring anti-Muslim intolerance including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).”

The letter concluded with an ADC request that “the German Government will take more concrete steps to protect the Muslim communities and Muslim institutions of Germany.”

Egyptians cry racism in woman’s slaying in Germany

Thousands of Egyptian mourners marched behind the coffin of the “martyr of the head scarf” on Monday — a pregnant Muslim woman who was stabbed to death in a German courtroom as her young son watched. Many in her homeland were outraged by the attack and saw the low key response in Germany as an example of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment. Her husband was critically wounded in the attack Wednesday in Dresden when he tried to intervene and was stabbed by the attacker and accidentally shot by court security. “There is no god but God and the Germans are the enemies of God,” chanted the mourners for 32-year-old Marwa al-Sherbini in her hometown of Alexandria, where her body was buried after being flown back from Germany. “We will avenge her killing,” her brother Tarek el-Sherbini told The Associated Press by telephone from the mosque where prayers were being recited in front of his sister’s coffin. “In the West, they don’t recognize us. There is racism.” Al-Sherbini, who was about four months pregnant and wore the Islamic head scarf, was involved in a court case against her neighbor for calling her a terrorist and was set to testify against him when he stabbed her 18 times inside the courtroom in front of her 3-year-old son. Her husband, who was in Germany on a research fellowship, came to her aid and was also stabbed by the neighbor and shot in the leg by a security guard who initially mistook him for the attacker, German prosecutors said. He is now in critical condition in a German hospital, according to al-Sherbini’s brother. “The guards thought that as long as he wasn’t blond, he must be the attacker so they shot him,” al-Sherbini told an Egyptian television station. The man, who has only been identified as 28-year-old Alex W., remains in detention and prosecutors have opened an investigation on suspicion of murder. Christian Avenarius, the prosecutor in Dresden where the incident took place, described the killer as driven by a deep hatred of Muslims. “It was very clearly a xenophobic attack of a fanatical lone wolf.” He added that the attacker was a Russian of German descent who had immigrated to Germany in 2003 and had expressed his contempt for Muslims at the start of the trial. At its regular news conference on Monday, a German government spokesman Thomas Steg said if the attack was racist, the government “naturally condemns this in the strongest terms.” The killing has dominated Egyptian media for days, while it has received comparatively little coverage in German and Western media. MAGGIE MICHAEL reports.

Accused ringleader says “Allah Will Be Victorious” as Halimi trial begins in France

Ilan Halimi was kidnapped Jan. 20, 2006, tied up in a cellar and tortured for 24 days in the suburb of Bagneux. His kidnappers tried unsuccessfully to extort a $600,000 ransom from his family. Halimi was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks south of Paris Feb. 13, 2006. He died en route to a hospital.

His murder case went to trial in Paris last week, with 27 people charged with participating in the abduction, torture and killing of Halimi, a 23-year-old mobile-phone salesperson. The lead defendant, Youssouf Fofana, is said to have admitted that he set out to kidnap a Jew and hold him for ransom. There are 27 accused in the case. On April 30 Halimi’s family walked out after Fofana made intimidating comments, saying he had friends in the courtroom who would “take pictures to identify people.” The case has been called a symptom of growing anti-Semitism in the suburban ghettos where the defendants, most of them the children of black and Muslim immigrants, live. The trial is expected to last 10 weeks.

Maryland court rejects Islamic divorce

After the wife of a Pakistani man filed for divorce in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Irfan Aleem responded to the move in writing in 2003 – and not just in the courtroom. Aleem went to the Pakistani Embassy in the nation’s capital, where he asserted that he was divorcing his wife, Farah Aleem. Irfan performed talaq – an exercise of Islamic religious and Pakistani secular law that allows husbands to divorce their wives by declaring I divorce thee three times. However, this month, Maryland’s highest court has stated that talaq can’t be used in the state. The state Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 21-page opinion declaring that talaq is contrary to Maryland’s provision giving women and men equal rights. In Islamic tradition, talaq can only be invoked by the husband, unless he grants the same right to his wife. Irfan Aleem, who worked for the World Bank and is worth an estimated $2 million, may have to give Farah Aleem half of this under Maryland law. Farah has stated that over the years, the lack of financial support from her husband has been a hardship for her and her daughter, currently a college student.

Brigitte Bardot charged with Inciting Racial Hatred Over Complaint about Aïd el-Kebir

Former French actor and animal activist Brigitte Bardot went on trial in a Paris courtroom charged with inciting racial hatred over remarks made in a letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy in December 2006 regarding the Muslim festival of Aïd el-Kebir and the slaughter of sheep. Bardot wrote, I am fed up with being under the thumb of a population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its acts. The letter was later published by Bardot’s foundation. This is the fifth time Bardot has been charged with inciting racial hatred since 1997. 73 year-old Bardot did not attend the court in person, claiming she was physically unwell. She may receive a fine of 15.000 Euros and a two-month prison sentence. The decision will be rendered on June 3rd.