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Germany: Bavaria train attacker handed 14-year jail sentence


The 28-year-old pulled a knife on four passengers on a high-speed train in the southern state of Bavaria last November. The trial focused on whether his attack was motivated by Islamic extremism or schizophrenia.

The man who carried out a knife attack on a German high-speed train was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Friday.

A court in Munich found that Abdalrahman A. was culpable despite claims he was mentally ill at the time.

The 28-year-old was found guilty of attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm.

What did the court rule?

Presiding judge Jochen Boesl rejected a defense of mental illness on the basis of seven expert evaluations and identified a jihadist motive for the crime.

Boesl said the defendant had frequently listened to radio programs “with Islamist content” and from May 2021 “at the latest” began envisioning “taking part in jihad, or armed combat.” 

“These views led him to this act,” Boesl said. “He wanted to kill non-Muslim passengers because they were in his view non-believers and thus had no right to live.”

What happened during the attack?

On November 6, 2021, Abdalrahman A. was traveling on an Intercity Express (ICE) train from Passau to Nuremberg when he pulled a knife on four other passengers, seriously injuring three of them.

A folding knife with an 8-centimeter (3.1-inch) blade was found on the suspect. 

According to media reports at the time, more than 200 people were on the train and several stepped in to prevent the attacker from injuring other people.

Why is this case important?

At the time of the attack, investigators were doubtful of a terrorist motive for the incident and said the attacker appeared to be suffering from psychiatric problems and had called for help on the train.

The defendant was initially taken to a psychiatric unit, but two months later he was remanded in custody where he remained until now.

During the two-month trial, the federal prosecutor’s office pushed an Islamist motive for the crime and demanded a life sentence for alleged attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm.

According to German intelligence, Abdalrahman A. visited a Salafist mosque and allegedly tried to do his part in the jihad by killing non-Muslims.

The defense, meanwhile, argued that the attack was a result of delusion caused by their client’s paranoid schizophrenia and called for the defendant to be placed in a psychiatric facility.

Several witnesses, including the prison psychiatrist, stated that the defendant was schizophrenic.

Abdalrahman A., of Palestinian origin, has lived in Germany since 2014 as a refugee, having arrived from war-torn Syria.

He has been living in Passau and had recently lost his job, police said. 

Islamist extremists have committed several violent attacks in Germany in the past several years, the deadliest being a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people.

More recently, a Syrian jihadist was given a life sentence in May 2021 for stabbing a German man to death and severely wounding his partner in a homophobic attack in the eastern city of Dresden.

Source: DW Media