A man with reported far-right connections has been arrested in Germany in relation to the murder of Walter Lübcke, a local pro-refugee politician, investigators announced on Sunday.
The 45-year-old man, identified as Stephen E. was arrested at his home on Saturday after traces of his DNA, which are stored in the national criminal database, were found on Lübcke’s clothing.
“The arrest took place on the basis of DNA evidence and the suspect appeared this afternoon before an investigating judge in Kassel,” police and prosecutors said in a joint statement.
While the authorities have refused for the moment to comment on a possible motive, German media are reporting that the man has a long history of far-right related violence.
According to the Guardian, he was sentenced to prison at the age of 20 for planting a pipe bomb in a burning car outside a shelter for asylum seekers in Hohenstein-Steckenroth, in the state of Hesse. Sixteen years later he was arrested at a far-right march that attacked an event by the association of German trade unions in Dortmund, and sentenced to seven months’ probation for breaching the peace.
The suspect is reported to have close contacts with the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party as well as Combat 18 (figures 1 and 8 corresponding to the first and eighth letters of the alphabet: A and H for Adolph Hitler), one of the the most active neo-Nazi groups currently in operation.
Mr Lübcke was a member of the Hesse state parliament for 10 years from 1999 before becoming regional president of Kassel, one the state’s three administrative districts.
In October 2015, Lübcke voiced his support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome refugees fleeing the war in Syria, making him a hate figure among the far-right.
After the announcement of his death, many hateful comments from people known for their extremist ideas were posted on social networks. Some welcomed his death and predicted the same fate for Angela Merkel and her supporters, a response that President Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned as “cynical, tasteless, despicable and in every way disgusting.”