German court sentences man to life imprisonment for murder of cashier in COVID mask dispute

A German court sentenced a 50-year-old man to life behind bars on Tuesday for last year murdering a petrol station worker who insisted he follow rules and wear a coronavirus mask.

The shooting in the western town of Idar-Oberstein over pandemic restrictions shocked Germans at a time of fear that coronavirus deniers were turning to violence.

The court found the defendant, identified only as Mario N. due to privacy laws, guilty of murder and sentenced him to life.

He had admitted killing the 20-year-old petrol station worker but pleaded to manslaughter with limited culpability. An expert had found alcohol in his blood.

“No matter what the verdict was, it would not have changed anything about what happened and about the person who was lost. It was never going to bring my child back,” the victim’s mother, Michaela Rech, told reporters.

Prosecutors said the victim, a cashier, had asked the man to comply with rules and wear a face mask while paying for beer at the petrol station.

After initially refusing to do so and leaving, the defendant returned wearing a mask but pulled it down when approaching the cashier and after another brief exchange shot him in the head.

The victim died immediately and Mario N. later gave himself up at a police station, saying the coronavirus measures were causing him stress.

Resistance to German restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus grew during 2020 and 2021 with thousands of people taking to the streets, including civil rights activists, vaccine opponents and far-right radicals.

In August 2020, protesters stormed the steps of the Reichstag parliament building, some holding the far-right Reichsflagge, which shocked many Germans.

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