German neo-Nazi charged in politician's murder

A German neo-Nazi was charged Wednesday with murdering a politician who publicly advocated for allowing thousands of refugees into Germany.  

Federal prosecutors said Stephan Ernst, 46, who has previous convictions for a string of violent anti-migrant crimes, is accused of murder, attempted murder, serious bodily harm and firearms offenses.

FILE: Suspect Stephan E., center, is escorted to a helicopter in Karlsruhe, Germany. 

FILE: Suspect Stephan E., center, is escorted to a helicopter in Karlsruhe, Germany.  (dpa via AP)

Walter Luebcke, who led the regional administration in Germany's central region of Kassel, was shot on his porch on June 1, 2019, and died later that night. His killing sparked widespread outrage in Germany and warnings about the growing danger of violent far-right extremism.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Ernst attended an October 2015 town hall event where Luebcke defended the German government's decision to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees into the country. A video of Luebcke's remarks was widely shared in far-right circles, drawing numerous threats.

Angered by sexual assaults in Cologne months later that were blamed on migrants and by an Islamist truck attack in Nice, France, in July 2016, Ernst allegedly decided to kill Luebcke to "send a publicly noticeable signal against the current state order, which he rejected," according to prosecutors.

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Prosecutors allege that Ernst traveled to Luebcke's home near Kassel on the night a festival was being held nearby, crept up on his victim, and shot him in the head at close distance using a Rossi revolver.

Ernst is also accused of allegedly stabbing an Iraqi asylum-seeker in the back, injuring the victim's spine and severing two nerves in January 2016.

Prosecutors said the attack was rooted in Ernst's "right-wing extremist hatred of refugees." Police only linked him to the stabbing after finding the knife used in his possession when he was arrested for Luebcke's slaying last June.

Authorities also discovered numerous illegal firearms that Ernst had stored in various locations, including three revolvers, two pistols, two rifles and a submachine gun, as well as 1,400 bullets.

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His lawyer, Frank Hannig, said in a video statement posted on YouTube that he was defending Ernst as a "human being" and not his actions.

"A murder is a murder, and a murderer must be punished. But he has the right to a fair trial," Hannig said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.