The August 2018 incident in Chemnitz, Germany which resulted in the murder of a German citizen and caused days of riots, upheaval and worldwide attention has come to a closure of sorts.
Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 8.22.2019
The man accused of the killing that led to a week of far-right violence last year in Chemnitz, Germany was found guilty of manslaughter at a court in Dresden on Thursday, and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.
Alaa S., a 23-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker, had always maintained his innocence, while state prosecutors had demanded an 10-year prison sentence for “joint manslaughter and serious physical injury.” The prosecution case was largely based on the testimony of an employee at a nearby kebab shop.
In an interview with public broadcaster ZDF a few days before the verdict, Alaa S. swore that he did not touch either the victim or the knife that killed him. His lawyers pointed out there was no DNA evidence linking him to either, though in their final statement on Thursday, prosecutors said his guilt had been proved.
The main suspect, 22-year-old Iraqi Farhad A. who had previously been accused of stabbings, has not been found and is believed to have fled the country. A third suspect, another young Iraqi, was released last September for lack of evidence.
For the people of Chemnitz, the verdict is unlikely to bring closure to what escalated into a series of ugly events last year, and attracted major media coverage to the city.
‘Moralizing’ riles people
Despite the city’s best cultural efforts at fostering tolerance, many Chemnitzers resist what they see as attempts to impose an ideology. “If it becomes too demonstrative, then it becomes divisive,” said Franz Knoppe, project director for the Chemnitz cultural and educational organization ASA-FF, the “Network for Global Learning.”
“The ‘Wir Sind Mehr’ demos are an act of self-assurance: ‘Maybe we are more,’ but it doesn’t open the people who maybe didn’t want to march with the Nazis, but also didn’t like the fact that Daniel H. was killed.”
On the day after Daniel H.’s killing, a city street festival that had been running the whole weekend turned sour, and some people were filmed chasing migrants, while the police appeared unable to control the situation. When the festival was abruptly shut down, it gave way to a week of far-right protests, attended by thousands of neo-Nazis from across the country, often in violent confrontation with Antifa counterprotests, and desperate attempts by the local government to find dialogue with citizens.
These were followed by a major rock concert in Chemnitz, and huge demonstrations in Berlin and other German cities under the hashtag #WirSindMehr (“We are more”), meant to highlight Germany’s open and inclusive culture.
But beneath these efforts at political engagement in Chemnitz, the politics in the city can’t be hidden. The results of the city council election in May this year returned the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) 18% of the vote, a close second to the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). That doesn’t sound that much, except that the far-right group Pro Chemnitz, which includes some neo-Nazis, and which organized last year’s far-right demo in the wake of Daniel H.’s death, took another 8% and now has five of the 60 seats in the city council.