BERLIN (AP) — A court on Friday sentenced a far-right extremist to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of a leading candidate for Cologne mayor, the day before she was elected to the job last year.
The state court in Duesseldorf found that the assailant, a 45-year-old German identified only as Frank S. in line with the country's privacy rules, wanted to "send a signal against the government's refugee policy."
Henriette Reker, who was in charge of housing refugees in Cologne at the time, was stabbed in the neck as she campaigned for the mayor's job on Oct. 17.
The defendant stabbed her with a large hunting knife at a campaign stand set up by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.
"He wanted to send a signal against the government's refugee policy," presiding judge Barbara Havliza said as she announced the verdict at the Duesseldorf state court, news agency dpa reported. "He wanted to create a climate of fear and influence politics."
"He believed that the German government was not entitled to let refugees into the country," the judge added. "In his opinion, the government was committing high treason. He wanted to send an extreme and brutal signal against that."
The attack came at the height of last year's massive influx of migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere to Germany.
Reker was elected mayor the day after the attack while in an induced coma and took office about a month later. She ran as an independent with backing from Merkel's party and others.
During the 2½-month trial, the defendant admitted to the attack but denied any intention to kill Reker. The court concluded that S., who had previous convictions for violent crime, had played down his far-right and anti-foreigner views during the trial. The defendant planned to appeal.
Reker, who testified as a witness in April, said she had been "very worried that I could be paralyzed" and still suffered from nightmares. After the verdict, the mayor said in a statement that she planned to look to the future and hoped the verdict would help four others who were also injured in the attack to find closure.
"I hope that the attacker understands that hatred and violence are no solution," she added.
Frank Jordans contributed to this report.