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Syrian convicted of Berlin assault on Israeli wearing kippa

2 min

Berlin (AFP)

A German court convicted a Palestinian man from Syria Monday on assault charges for lashing out with his belt at an Israeli man wearing a Jewish kippa skullcap.

Knaan al-Sebai, 19, was sentenced to four weeks' juvenile detention but allowed to walk free, having already served over two months in pre-trail detention.

"I made a mistake and I have learnt from it," he told the Berlin court, after a trial in which he had denied the April 17 attack was motivated by anti-Semitism.

A video of the street assault, filmed by the victim on his smartphone, had sparked widespread public revulsion as it spread on social media, and triggered street rallies in solidarity with Jews.

The footage shows the attacker, one of a group of three, shouting "yahudi" -- Jew in Arabic -- before striking the victim, leaving him injured.

The victim, a 21-year-old student, later revealed that he is not Jewish but an Israeli Arab called Adam, who was walking at the time with a German-Moroccan friend aged 24.

Adam, a veterinary student, has said they had wanted to test whether wearing a kippa was safe in the fashionable inner Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg.

- Solidarity marches -

The attack was the latest to raise alarm bells about renewed anti-Semitism in Germany from both the far-right and a large influx of predominantly Muslim asylum seekers since 2015.

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, which garnered nearly 13 percent of the vote in the general election in September, has broken a taboo by challenging Germany's "remembrance culture" and atonement for the Nazi era.

AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland has described the Nazi period as a "speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history".

News of the belt attack coincided with another public outcry, over a rap duo who made light of Nazi death camp prisoners but went on to win the music industry's sales-based Echo award, which was subsequently axed.

Days after the assault, some 2,000 people rallied at a "Berlin Wears Kippa" solidarity demonstration, matched by smaller events in several other German cities.

Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced the emergence of "another form of anti-Semitism" beyond that of right-wing extremist groups, from Muslim refugees.

She reaffirmed that the security of Jews and the state of Israel was a central concern for Germany, given its "eternal responsibility" for the Holocaust in which the Nazis murdered six million European Jews.

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