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Trial over Muslim’s killing in court begins

The trial of a man accused of stabbing a pregnant Egyptian woman to death in a German courtroom opened Monday in the same venue amid heightened security.
APTOPIX Germany Court Stabbing
Defendant Alex W., right, removed his mask and hood in court, but was fined for contempt for keeping his sunglasses on.Matthias Rietschel / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The husband of a pregnant Egyptian woman knifed to death in a German courtroom testified Monday that the alleged attacker continued stabbing his wife even after she was on the ground.

The suspect, 29-year-old Alexander W., arrived for his trial in the same court room Monday with his face concealed beneath a hood, hat, sunglasses and a mask. Only after several urgings by the judge did he remove the mask, hat and hood, but he was fined for contempt of court for keeping the sunglasses on.

He faces charges of murder, attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm for the July slaying of 31-year-old Marwa al-Sherbini.

The attack has outraged Muslims, who dubbed al-Sherbini "the headscarf martyr" and lambasted it as evidence of Islamophobia in Europe.

Members of al-Sherbini family including her husband, Elwy Ali Okaz, are acting as co-plaintiffs in the trial — meaning they can review evidence, file motions and question witnesses.

On the trial's opening day, Okaz described the attack, in which he also was injured trying to protect his wife.

The suspect "still stabbed her when she was already lying on the floor," Okaz said in Arabic, identifying Alexander W. as the attacker.

About 200 police officers secured the Dresden courthouse Monday amid fears of a potential revenge attack.

Dresden prosecutors have said the defendant was driven by a "hatred of non-Europeans and Muslims," according to the indictment. If convicted, Alexander W. could face life in prison. The trial is scheduled to last until Nov. 11.

Killed while giving evidence
Al-Sherbini was killed while giving court evidence in July against a Russian-born attacker who was convicted of defamation for having called her a "terrorist" and "Islamist" during an altercation.

Prosecutors say Alexander W. smuggled a 7-inch (18-centimeter) kitchen knife into the courtroom and stabbed al-Sherbini repeatedly in front of her husband, 3-year-old son and eight courtroom officials.

Okaz was stabbed when he tried to intervene, and was accidentally shot in the leg by a security guard who mistook him for the attacker.

The case is being closely monitored in Germany and abroad. Egyptian Ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy was attending the trial, as were representatives of leading Muslim rights groups in Germany.

Ramzy said he expected "a speedy sentence. A just sentence that is commensurate with a serious crime."

In al-Sherbini's home city of Alexandria, in Egypt, dozens of supporters, friends and family members gathered for a rally demanding justice in the German case.

"We will never forget you, Marwa," the crowd shouted.

The protesters held photos of al-Sherbini and small banners in both Arabic and English calling for "justice ... punishment."