BERLIN — A court in Frankfurt convicted a German neo-Nazi of murdering a local politician and sentenced him to life in prison on Thursday for what the prosecutor called the country’s first political assassination by far-right extremists since the end of World War II.
The court found Stephan Ernst, 46, guilty of the 2019 murder of Walter Lübcke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party who had defended her welcoming refugee policy. The prosecutor had sought the sentence — life with no possibility of parole — because of the severity of the crime, which he argued was motivated by “racism and xenophobia.”
The assassination marked a turning point in postwar Germany’s reckoning with the extent of the threat posed by domestic neo-Nazis, coming after years of attacks by far-right extremists on migrants or their descendants. The prosecutor, Dieter Killmer, insisted that the court must send a message to an increasingly emboldened far-right camp in the country.
“From our point of view, as soon as a politician is involved, as is the case here, we must all be on our guard to ensure that others do not ignore the state’s monopoly on the use of force and take it upon themselves to kill representatives of the German people,” Mr. Killmer told reporters after his closing arguments last week.
Another man, identified only as Markus H. in keeping with German privacy laws, was found not guilty of being an accessory to the murder, but was given a suspended sentence of one year and six months for a weapons violation.
Mr. Lübcke was killed on the terrace of his home near the central German city of Kassel on June 2, 2019. His adult son found his father slumped in a chair with a gunshot wound to the head and called an ambulance. He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Mr. Ernst was arrested two weeks later, and confessed to the crime shortly afterward, only to rescind that confession weeks later. He later returned to it during the trial, which began in June.
Mr. Ernst has also been charged with attempted murder in the August 2016 stabbing of a refugee from Iraq. Police officers searching Mr. Ernst’s home found traces of the Iraqi man’s DNA on a knife.