Prosecutors charge neo-Nazi with German politician's murder

BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors have charged a far-right extremist with the killing of a regional politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and in a near-fatal attack on an Iraqi asylum-seeker a few years before.

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

A second man, identified only as Markus H., was charged with accessory to murder and breaking firearms laws for allegedly helping Ernst improve his marksmanship while suspecting that he was considering a politically motivated attack, the prosecutors said.

Walter Luebcke, who led the regional administration in Germany's the central region of Kassel, was shot on his porch on June 1, 2019, and died later that night.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Ernst and Markus H. had visited an October 2015 town hall event where Luebcke defended the German government's decision to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees into the country.

Angered by sexual assaults in Cologne months later and 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.

Around the same time, Ernst allegedly attacked the Iraqi asylum-seeker from behind with a knife, injuring the victim's spine and severing two nerves.

Prosecutors said the attack was rooted in Ernst's “right-wing extremist hatred of refugees.”

After his arrest in June, authorities said they found 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.