Maximum penalty for the protagonist of the first far-right murder of a politician in Germany since the time of National Socialism and the Adolf Hitler regime. The High Court in Frankfurt today sentenced 47-year-old neo-Nazi Stefan Ernst to life imprisonment for the shooting death of Walter Lübcke, chairman of the government of the Kassel regional district, in central Germany in June 2019. The judges established the maximum guilt of the accused, which means that the sentence cannot be reviewed after 15 years, and they also reserved the right to dictate security custody, which if executed would mean that he will remain imprisoned until his death. Markus H., another known neo-Nazi and friend of the killer, was found not guilty on the charge of complicity in the crime but was sentenced to a year and a half in prison on probation for providing Ernst with the murder weapon.
Stefan Ernst shot Lübcke in the head on the night of June 2, 2019 when his victim was sitting on the terrace of his house in the small town of Wolfhagen-Istha, north of the central federal state of Hesse. The reason was a statement by Lübcke at a citizens’ meeting in October 2015, in which, in the midst of the refugee crisis and when hundreds of thousands of them arrived in Germany, the senior Conservative official publicly defended Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel , for its reception policy and the construction of a center to receive and shelter migrants in its district. Stefan Ernst and Markus H. were present at that event, who shortly afterwards published a short with Lübke’s statements on social networks and fueled criticism and threats against the politician.
Ernst, who was identified and arrested after leaving his DNA fingerprint at the crime scene, confessed the facts from the beginning, although over time in three different versions, the last of them to accuse Markus H. of complicity and of having been present at the time of the murder, although the latter could not be proven during the trial and the interested party remained silent throughout the process. The prosecution had demanded life imprisonment and immediate security custody for Ernst and nine years and eight months in prison for Markus H., while the lawyers for the former claimed a lesser penalty for murder and those for the latter the innocence of his client and his immediate release.
The private prosecution formed by Lübcke’s widow and her two adult children claimed that Markus H. was convicted as an accessory to the murder. The victim’s family believed the defendant’s latest statement implicating his former friend and claimed that he was present when he shot the conservative politician point-blank in the head. The process, which began last June, took place over 42 sessions in conditions of extreme security, also sanitary. Spectators and representatives of the media had to attend the courtroom with masks, where many places were left empty to keep the required safety distance. Most of the journalists were therefore obliged to follow the proceedings on a screen in a large adjoining room.
The sentence was celebrated by those who suffer the most from the neo-Nazi and far-right threat. The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, stressed that the verdict is “a clear signal against racism and right-wing extremism” and “an appropriate reaction to this horrible crime.” The Federal Government Commissioner for Victims of Terrorism, Edgar Franke, pointed out that the sentence is an important step in overcoming the attack by the extreme right through legal channels. “The political digestion of the case must continue,” demanded the representative of the Berlin executive, who stressed that “this murder motivated by hatred and human contempt should not fall into oblivion.”