A palestinian man allegedly murdered a German real estate investor in November because he was a “Jew” who “destroyed his country,” according to shocking testimony during a Wednesday court appearance in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.
A Lebanese-born witness using the alias of Haitham Ahmad said the 31-year-old Palestinian man named Iyad Bayatneh said that 57-year-old victim Michael Riecher is a “ Jew” who “annihilated my country,” according to a report in the local newspaper Schwarzwälder Bote.
Jürgen Lück, a reporter for the paper, who broke the story about the lethal antisemitic motive behind Riecher’s death, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that, “according to Riecher’s friend, Riecher was definitively not Jewish.”
Lück has reported extensively on the trial.
Ahmad said that the Palestinian’s hatred in connection with the apparent reference to Jews destroying his country is related to the motive for murder. It is unclear what Bayatneh means by “my country.” He presumably meant the West Bank, since he and Ahmad knew each other from the West Bank and Jordan.
Riecher played a critical role in the renovation of a local sanctuary room of the synagogue and worked with Syrian refugees regarding housing placement.
Bayatneh’s accomplice, 28-year-old Syrian Mohammed Omran Albakr, allegedly devised the plan to attack and rob Riecher. Albakr eventually moved into Riecher’s parent’s house with his wife.
The testimony by the witness, who works as a barber, took place in the court house in the town of Horb am Neckar. Schwarzwälder Bote reported that Ahmad said that “Iyad [Bayatneh] did not say anything about plans” to murder Riecher. The witness said that Bayatneh did not comment on the fact that Riecher could be killed as part of the attack. Riecher was in frail health due to a lung condition; he died by strangulation. According to the indictment, Albakr and Bayatneh used their hands to murder Riecher, added Lück. Albakr is believed to have strangled Riecher.
Bayatneh is described as a “stateless Palestinian” by the German authorities.
He told the police that Albakr murdered Riecher. Albakr has remained tight-lipped about his alleged role in the murder.
Albakr was previously listed in media reports, because after his arrival to Germany in 2015, he was praised as a model refugee in a 2016 Schwarzwälder Bote article. The role of Riecher’s wealth also played a role in his murder and robbery of money. The paper reported that Albakr, according to Ahmad’s testimony, dreamed of buying a Ferrari and a house in Syria.
Albakr lived on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. According to the newspaper, he studied mathematics and refused to serve in the Syrian army. As a result, the Syrian regime of president Bashar Assad imprisoned him. After he was released from prison, Albakr migrated to Turkey and eventually to Germany.
Free Democratic Party MP Michael Theurer said in 2014: “If Michael Riecher had not taken over the financial risk of the property developer, we would not be sitting in a rock-solid, renovated sanctuary today.”
The murder of Riecher comes amid growing antisemitism in Germany. Michael Blume, the commissioner to combat antisemitism in the state of Baden-Württemberg, has faced a wave of criticism for drawing an apparent parallel between the Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann and a German Jewish activist who fights the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Blume to resign because of his comparison in March. Henryk M. Broder, Germany’s leading authority on contemporary post-Holocaust antisemitism, wrote that Blume has “no idea about antisemitism.” Blume refuses to urge a partially-owned state bank to close its account with the pro-BDS Palestine Committee Stuttgart. The Bundestag declared BDS antisemitic in May.