Man jailed for Chemnitz knife killing that sparked far-right protests

A 24-year-old Syrian man was sentenced to nine and a half years in jail Thursday for a knife killing that sparked racist street violence and far-right protests in the eastern German city of Chemnitz.

Man jailed for Chemnitz knife killing that sparked far-right protests
Sheikhi being escourted by police in Dresden on Thursday. Photo: DPA

The court found that Alaa Sheikhi, together with an Iraqi man still at large, stabbed to death 35-year-old German Daniel Hillig in the early hours of August 26st last year.

The manslaughter conviction comes at a sensitive time, one year after thousands of neo-Nazis and enraged citizens marched through Chemnitz, and 10 days before state elections in the ex-communist region.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has railed against immigrants and Islam, is forecast to poll strongly in the state of Saxony and neighbouring Brandenburg on September 1st.

READ ALSO: Could far-right AfD really win in upcoming east German elections?

The court heard that the fugitive Iraqi, a 22-year-old identified only as Farhad A., was first to confront Hillig, a carpenter with German-Cuban roots.

Both he and Sheikhi then stabbed Hillig, who died of heart and lung wounds, as well as another man, named as Dimitri M., who was badly injured.

Sheikhi, who arrived in Germany during the 2015 mass migrant influx to Europe, was detained hours after the attack, together with another Iraqi who was later released for lack of evidence.

Defence lawyer Ricarda Lang had argued that the case against Sheikhi was based only on questionable, late-night witness testimony rather than fingerprints, DNA or other forensic evidence.

Lang also asserted, shortly before the verdict, that the court may convict and jail the defendant because “someone needs to take the blame so that Chemnitz stays quiet”.

Far-right hotbed

The trial was held not in Chemnitz but in Saxony's state capital Dresden, for security reasons and because of what the court called the “extraordinarily high public interest”.

News of the killing a year ago spread within hours on social media and led neo-Nazis, angry football hooligans, extremist martial arts fans and others to march through Chemnitz.

In some cases, the mobs randomly attacked people of foreign appearance and,
in follow-up mass rallies, fascist activists openly performed the illegal Hitler salute.

Local Jewish, Turkish and Iranian restaurants at the time became targets of
xenophobic vandalism.

READ ALSO: Jewish restaurant attacked amid German protests

As the extremist AfD, Pegida and Pro Chemnitz movements marched in Chemnitz, and anti-fascist groups organised large counter-protests, a political fight also raged in Berlin.

Anti-migrant protesters hold German flags during a demonstration in Chemnitz on September 1st 2018. Photo: DPA

In a controversy that shook Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, the then-domestic spy chief Hans-Georg Maaßen, an outspoken critic of her liberal immigration policy, questioned her assessment that the violence amounted to organised “hunts” of ethnic minorities.

Maaßen, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), eventually had to
step down. But he has recently been touring eastern Germany with speaking
engagements outlining his hardline stance on immigration and security.

The Chemnitz unrest threw a harsh spotlight on the drab city of 240,000 people, formerly known as Karl-Marx-Stadt, which has had an extremist subculture since the turbulent years after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the 1990s it was an early hideout for a militant neo-Nazi cell dubbed
the National Socialist Underground, which was only uncovered in 2011 after its
members had murdered nine immigrants and a police officer.

Last October, police arrested eight men accused of having formed the far-right militant group “Revolution Chemnitz”.

And in March, fans of fourth-tier football club Chemnitzer FC paid tribute to the recently deceased former security chief Thomas Haller, co-founder of a group called “HooNaRa”, short for Hooligans-Nazis-Racists.

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Which parts of Munich are the worst for crime?

Bavaria’s capital, Munich, is a great place to live and work, and most who live there think it’s safe. However, it’s worth knowing where and what kinds of crime occur in the city. 

Which parts of Munich are the worst for crime?

The good news is that in 2021, Munich was listed in the top 10 safest cities in the world by Numbeo, a crowdsourcing survey site dedicated to understanding perceptions of different cities and countries

However, that only captures popular sentiment. To understand where crime is happening, we must look at the statistics recorded by the city itself.

According to data provided by the city of Munich, around 60,150 crimes were reported to the police throughout the course of 2022. Each was categorised according to location and the type of crime. 

READ ALSO: Fact check – is crime really on the rise in Germany?

Aerial view of flats in Munich

An aerial view of Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

The inner-city district of Ludwigsvorstadt, on the banks of the Isar, recorded the most crimes with 8,971 offences. Petty theft was the most common crime at 1,903, with crimes against personal freedoms – constituting verbal harassment based on race or religion – in second place at 1,577. Five physical and 174 sexual assaults were reported in 2022. 

The north-east district of Schwabing-Freimann recorded the second-highest number of crimes in 2022. Again, petty theft led to recorded incidents at 993, while crimes against personal freedoms followed behind at 850. 816 incidents of more severe property theft were recorded. Two physical assaults and 84 sexual assaults were recorded. 

The city’s historic centre, Altstadt-Lehei, came in third place regarding criminal incidents. Once more, petty theft led to 2,468 recorded incidents, with crimes against personal freedoms in second place at 1,306. A total of 863 incidents of most severe property theft were recorded. Nine physical assaults took place, and 113 sexual assaults. 

What about other areas?

While crime levels remain relatively consistent across the rest of Munich, it’s worth highlighting outliers in the university district, Maxvorstadt and the outer south-eastern district Ramersdorf-Perlach. Both districts reported, on average, over a thousand more incidents than other neighbourhoods aside from the top three with the highest crime rates.

Ramersdorf-Perlach proved a particular focus for incidents of petty theft at 1,061. Crimes against personal freedoms were the most common in Maxvorstadt. 

Munich’s safest district was the village-like surrounds of Allach – Untermenzing, in the north-west. Crimes against personal freedoms were the most prevalent, with 215 incidents and incidents of petty theft at 156.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that Munich is generally a safe place to live and work. Crimes generally happen near the city centre – as with most large European cities. With a little attention paid to your belongings and a degree of common sense, your time in the city will be safe and pleasant. 

What do you think? Are there areas of Munich that you think are more dangerous than others? Let us know