Walter Lübcke: Man on trial admits to killing German politician

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Stephan ErnstImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Stephan Ernst admitted in court to firing the shot that killed Lübcke

A man on trial in Germany for the murder of pro-migrant Christian Democrat politician Walter Lübcke has told the court he fired the fatal shot.

Far-right sympathiser Stephan Ernst previously admitted to killing Lübcke, but later withdrew his admission.

Lübcke was shot in the head at close range in his garden in Istha last June.

If a political motive of far-right extremism is proven, it would be the first such killing of a politician in the country's post-war history.

Lübcke, 65, was the head of the regional council in the German city of Kassel. He was known nationally for supporting Chancellor Angela Merkel's call to take in refugees in 2015.

During a town hall meeting that year he called for audience members to stand up for Christian values.

"Whoever does not support these values can leave this country any time, if he doesn't agree. This is the freedom of every German," he said.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Walter Lübcke was shot in the head with a short-range weapon in June 2019

Ernst and co-defendant Markus H, who is accused of giving Ernst firearms training, allegedly attended that meeting.

According to prosecutors, it was after that meeting that Ernst "increasingly projected his hatred of foreigners on to Lübcke."

On Wednesday, Ernst told the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main: "I fired the shot."

He claimed he acted with Markus H. However prosecutors say they do not think Markus H was present at the scene of the crime.

Addressing Lübcke's family, Ernst said that he was guided by "wrong thoughts" and took responsibility for it.

"Nobody should die because they have a different opinion," he said.

Investigators have also charged Ernst with attempted murder over the stabbing of an Iraqi asylum seeker in 2016.

He is known to have had links to neo-Nazi networks and investigators are exploring a possible connection to the National Socialist Underground (NSU) - an extremist group which shot dead 10 people, most of whom had migrant backgrounds, between 2000 and 2007.

Germany has seen a rise in support for the far right, especially in the country's formerly-communist east.

There are 24,000 right-wing extremists in Germany, according to government figures. Nearly 13,000 are believed to have a tendency towards violence.

Authorities have stepped up their crackdown on the country's underground far-right following the politician's murder and an attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle last year.

Horst Seehofer, the country's Interior Minister, has vowed to be tougher on security measures and has promised to crackdown on hate speech.

He recently declared far-right extremism the "biggest security threat facing Germany."