DRESDEN, Germany (AP) – Hundreds of people carrying white roses gathered Saturday on the steps of Dresden’s city hall in honor of an Egyptian woman who was fatally stabbed by a defendant in a German courtroom.
Marwa al-Sherbini, a pregnant 31-year-old pharmacist, was stabbed 18 times in a court where she was to have testified against a young Russian-born German. She had filed a complaint against him in 2008 accusing him of insulting her with racial slurs.
The public memorial, organized by local civil rights groups, drew more than 1,000 people, including the Egyptian ambassador and officials from the state of Saxony, where the July 1 stabbing took place.
Mourners brought single white roses that they laid beneath large photos of the dead woman.
Al-Sherbini was stabbed as her 3-year-old son looked on. Her husband was injured when he intervened to protect her and he remains hospitalized.
The attacker, identified only as Alex W., 28, remains in detention pending the outcome of an investigation on suspicion of murder. Charging a suspect typically takes months in Germany.
Al-Sherbini had already testified once against the man in court in November 2008, after which he was fined for calling her a “terrorist” and an “Islamist at a playground.” He had returned to court on July 1 to challenge the fine. Because the man was not considered a threat and had not been held in detention before the court session, there was no security surrounding the trial.
Many German courts, including that in Dresden, have no security checks at their entrance.
“This crime by a lone wolf destroyed a family’s hopes within minutes,” said Egyptian Ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy. “We expect the attacker to be swiftly sentenced and her family to receive justice.”
Egyptians have expressed outrage at the attack, saying the German response has been too little, too late and serves as an example of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her condolences to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during the Group of Eight summit in Italy on Thursday and sent her top official for immigration affairs to offer sympathy to al-Sherbini’s husband, but has not publicly condemned the slaying. Ramzy said he was convinced “that this act does not reflect the reality of the German people. The Germans have an open mind, including to people of other faiths,” he said.
One of those at the memorial was Walerius Steinhauer who, like the attacker, was born in Russia of German forefathers and was allowed to emigrate after the collapse of communism in 1989.
“We Russian-Germans do not understand this young man. All of us are asking ourselves how could a Russian-German (immigrant) become a right-wing extremist?” Others expressed similar outrage.
Tobias Weidlich, 29, brought his two young daughters to the memorial.
“The brutality and horror of this crime is unbelievable,” he said.