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.