Suspect in German politician’s murder ‘retracts confession’

New lawyer for Stephan Ersnt says he withdraws confession in Walter Lübcke killing

Stephan Ersnt, supected of killing the administrative chief of the western German city of Kassel, Walter Lübcke, being escorted by police at the federal court of justice in Karlsruhe on Tuesday. Photograph: Uli Deck/AFP/Getty Images

Stephan Ersnt, supected of killing the administrative chief of the western German city of Kassel, Walter Lübcke, being escorted by police at the federal court of justice in Karlsruhe on Tuesday. Photograph: Uli Deck/AFP/Getty Images

 

The man charged with the murder last month of pro-immigration German politician Walter Lübcke has retracted his confession, his new lawyer said on Tuesday.

Stephan Ernst stands accused of having shot Lübcke, president of the regional government of Kassel, point blank in the head. The government said he had confessed to the killing soon after being arrested in mid-June.

“In today’s court hearing, Mr Ernst withdrew his confession,” said Frank Hannig, who said Mr Ernst had recently appointed him as his new defence lawyer.

Lübcke was a hate figure for the far-right because of his outspoken defence of chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to let more than a million refugees into Germany.

His killing triggered soul-searching over whether Germany was being complacent about the far-right threat.

If Lübcke’s murder is found to have been politically motivated, it would be the first murder in Germany of an elected politician by far-right forces since the fall of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime at the end of the second World War.

Mr Ernst’s original confession did not stop further investigation into a crime that shocked Germany. Police later arrested two other suspects who they said were involved in obtaining the gun used in the killing.

The chance discovery in 2011 of a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground, whose members murdered eight Turks, a Greek man and a German policewoman from 2000 to 2007, sparked concerns that security services were underestimating the far-right threat. – Reuters