Home Global News Two German prison staff taken hostage by 2019 synagogue attacker

Two German prison staff taken hostage by 2019 synagogue attacker

FILED - The defendant Stephan Balliet sits in the courtroom of the Regional Court on the 26th day of his trial for carrying out the deadly 2019 attack on a synagogue in Halle. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa-Zentralbild-POOL/dpa

The right-wing extremist who carried out a deadly 2019 attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, briefly held two prison employees hostage and was injured as he was overpowered by other staff inside the facility near the city of Magdeburg.

Stephan Balliet, 30, took two prison employees hostage in order to force his way out of the premises, the state Justice Ministry said.

The prisoner used an unidentified object to force a staff member to take him to the outside area, the ministry in the state of Saxony-Anhalt said.

He then tried to force another staff member to open further doors before being overpowered by eight prison staff, it added.

The staff members held hostage were not injured, but did receive care, it said.

It was initially unclear how Balliet was able to take the employees hostage at the prison in Burg, some 100 kilometres west of Berlin and a short distance from Magdeburg.

On October 9, 2019, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Balliet tried to force his way into a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle using explosive devices and gunfire. When the door held, he shot dead two people nearby and injured two others as he fled.

He confessed to carrying out the attack. He was convicted and given a life sentence in 2020.

He is serving his sentence in the modern high-security facility in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The right-wing extremist is said to be an uncooperative and difficult inmate.

While on trial in 2020, Balliet tried to escape the jail he was being held at in Halle. During a yard exercise, he climbed over a 3.4-metre-high fence and spent five minutes looking for ways out of the prison grounds before being caught.

Politicians voiced criticism of prison officials for allowing a second security incident involving the prisoner to occur.

“The world is watching … the state government has a special responsibility and must act with particular care,” said Eva von Angern, leader of the Left Party’s parliamentary group.

Saxony-Anhalt’s Justice Minister Franziska Weidinger said staff had acted calmly and prudently in the hostage situation, and that the Halle assailant had been closely supervised during his imprisonment.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser acknowledged that the incident worried her.

“Those who are responsible for prisons in Germany must take another very close look,” Faeser told the broadcaster Welt. “Especially with someone like the attacker in Halle, where we know that he tried to escape during the trial, special attention needs to be paid.”


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