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German on trial over Muslim murder
Killing of Egyptian woman in Dresden courtroom highlights hate crimes against Muslim citizens.
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2009 13:10 GMT
Al-Sherbini was stabbed at least 16 times in a Dresden court in July [AFP]

A man accused of killing a pregnant Egyptian woman in court in an attack is to go on trial in Germany.

Prosecutors say the defendant, identified as Alex W, stabbed Marwa al-Sherbini at least 16 times in three minutes on July 1, in the same courthouse where
his three-week trial will be held.

Some 200 police officers will guard the proceedings in the eastern city of Dresden on Monday.

German media reported online death threats against the defendant, who will appear in court behind bulletproof glass.

The 28-year-old Russian-born German resident allegedly plunged an 18cm kitchen knife into the chest, back and arm of al-Sherbini, who was three months pregnant at the time with her second child.

Prosecutors say the killing motivated was by "a pronounced hatred of non-Europeans and Muslims".

The accused is also charged with attempting to kill her husband, Elwy Okaz, who tried to come to her aid.

'Maximum sentence'

Egyptian media labelled her "the veil martyr", and on Sunday, the Egyptian government demanded the maximum sentence for Alex W, which is life in prison under German law.

Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba, reporting from Dresden, said that many people in Germany were shocked over the lapse in security in the courthouse.

"But in the wider world, questions were asked about the nature of the attack," he said.

"Marwa al-Sherbini took the defendant to court over an alleged insult to her and her ethnicity and religion. These cases are usually given extra security in courthouses.

"In this case however, there was actually no officer in the courtroom, and it took a few minutes after the incident for security to arrive."

AL-Sherbini's family will appear in Dresden as co-plaintiffs, represented by lawyers hired by Cairo, the foreign ministry said.

Slow reaction

The shocking attack, and the slow reaction by the German media , left the country open to accusations of neglectful handling of hate crimes against Muslim residents.

Berlin moved to deflect criticism, with Angela Merkel, the chancellor, expressing her condolences to Hosni Mubarak , the president.

Thousands of people have rallied in Dresden in al-Sherbini's memory.

"Many people in and outside Germany are looking to Dresden and hoping to see this murder punished," Nabil Yacoub, of the Dresden Immigrants Council, told AFP news agency.

The case also triggered anti-German protests in Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt and Iran

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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