DRESDEN, Germany – The trial of a man accused of stabbing a pregnant Egyptian woman to death in a German courtroom opened Monday in the same venue amid heightened security.
The alleged attacker, 29-year-old Alexander W., arrived at court with his face concealed beneath a hood, hat, sunglasses and a mask. Only after several urgings by the judge did he remove the mask, hat and hood, but he was fined for contempt of court for keeping the sunglasses on.
The man faces charges of murder, attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm for the July slaying of 31-year-old Marwa al-Sherbini.
The attack has outraged Muslims, who dubbed al-Sherbini "the headscarf martyr" and lambasted it as evidence of Islamophobia in Europe.
About 200 police officers secured the Dresden courthouse and screened everyone attending the hearing amid fears of a potential revenge attack.
The case is being closely monitored in Germany and abroad. Egyptian Ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy was attending the trial, as were representatives of leading Muslim rights groups in Germany.
Ramzy said he expected "a speedy sentence. A just sentence that is commensurate with a serious crime."
"I have every confidence in the German justice system," the Egyptian ambassador said.
Al-Sherbini was killed while giving court evidence in July against a Russian-born attacker who was convicted of defamation for having called her a "terrorist" and "Islamist" during an altercation.
Alexander W. allegedly smuggled a 7-inch (18-centimeter) kitchen knife into the courtroom and stabbed al-Sherbini repeatedly in front of her husband, 3-year-old son and eight courtroom officials, prosecutors said.
Her husband, Elwy Ali Okaz, was also stabbed when he tried to intervene, and was critically wounded when accidentally shot in the leg by a security guard who mistook him for the attacker.
On Monday afternoon, Okaz described the event to the court room in Germany.
Alexander W. "still stabbed her (his wife) when she was already lying on the floor," Okaz said in Arabic.
Dresden prosecutors said the defendant was driven by a "hatred of non-Europeans and Muslims," according to the indictment. If convicted, Alexander W. could face life in prison.
Members of al-Sherbini family, including her husband, are acting as co-plaintiffs in the trial — meaning they can review evidence, file motions and question witnesses. The trial is scheduled to last until Nov. 11.
In al-Sherbini's home city of Alexandria, in Egypt, dozens of supporters, friends and family members gathered for a rally demanding justice in the German case.
"We will never forget you, Marwa," the crowd shouted.
The protesters held photos of al-Sherbini and small banners in both Arabic and English calling for "justice ... punishment."