Accused grins as video of Halle synagogue attack is played in court
By Fabian Albrecht
Magdeburg, Germany - Video footage of last year's attempted massacre at a synagogue in the German city of Halle was shown to a court on Wednesday, prompting several people to leave the room while the accused watched with a grin.
It was the second day of a high-profile trial following the October attack, in which two people were shot dead after the armed attacker failed to gain entry to the house of worship.
Several of the co-plaintiffs left the courtroom, while others looked away as the half-hour video - streamed online during the attack - was played.
Some were seen covering their eyes and holding the hands of their lawyers or companions.
Forty-three people who were affected either directly or indirectly by the violence are currently being represented as co-plaintiffs in the trial, which began on Tuesday in the city of Magdeburg.
Stephan Balliet, a 28-year-old German national who is facing charges of murder and attempted murder for the attack, watched the footage closely and initially had a broad grin on his face.
Lawyers representing the victims pointed this out to a psychological expert attending the proceedings.
"I had to smile at one, two things, stupid jokes, nothing more," the defendant later said.
After the video was shown, judge Ursula Mertens adjourned the hearing for a 45-minute break, during which Balliet seemed to be in a good mood, chatting with his lawyers or looking at the co-plaintiffs with a smile.
Federal prosecutors say the defendant had set out to kill as many of the 52 people inside the synagogue as possible.
When he failed to get inside, he shot dead a 40-year-old female passer-by on the street before heading to a kebab shop, where he shot and killed a 20-year-old man.
He injured several other people before police officers were able to detain him.
The defendant did not seem to regret his actions. Balliet said he only regretted that the two persons he killed were neither Muslim nor Jewish and not his "enemies." He also expressed regret regarding the technical malfunctioning of his self-made weapons, which probably saved several lives.
The attack occurred on October 9, 2019: Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
According to the indictment, Balliet "planned to murder citizens of the Jewish faith due to his anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic disposition."
The trial is scheduled to last until mid-October and will continue on Tuesday next week.