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'Justice served'

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    'Justice served'

    By Yolande Knell
    BBC News, Cairo

    In Egypt, where most women wear the Islamic headscarf, Marwa Sherbini has become known as "the veil martyr".

    There were alerts on state television as news broke that her murderer had been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of an early release.

    The Egyptian ambassador in Berlin, Ramzi Izz Al-Din, told Channel One that Alexander Wiens had received "the harshest ruling possible".

    He said he did not expect the ruling to be reduced in case an appeal was filed.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki welcomed the verdict, saying it "served justice" and was "a warning to those motivated by hate".

    Wiens, 28, stabbed Ms Sherbini at least 16 times in a courtroom in Dresden in July, when she was giving evidence against him in a defamation case.

    He had called her a "terrorist" and "Islamist" in a children's playground because she covered her hair.

    She had asked him to make room for her three-year old son to play on the swings.

    Ms Sherbini, a 31-year-old pharmacist, was pregnant when she was killed. Her son was in the courtroom at the time and her husband was stabbed and accidentally shot by a German guard when he tried to intervene.

    High security

    Details of the case shocked Egyptians and there was outrage at what was seen as the slow response of the German authorities to offer condolences and deal with claims of Islamophobia.

    A week after the killing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her sympathies to Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, but she did not comment publicly.

    Meanwhile, thousands of people turned out for the funeral of Ms Sherbini in her home city, Alexandria. Many held banners demanding retribution.

    There were also small but angry protests outside the German embassy and in the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo.

    Demonstrators described Germany as "a civilisation of tyrants" and shouted: "What happened to human rights Where is justice"

    Wiens's trial was extensively covered in the Egyptian media, with particular attention given to the extra security measures taken in court.

    Egyptian lawyers also travelled to Dresden and were allowed to present legal arguments.

    Giving his response to the verdict, the head of the Egyptian Bar Association, Hamdi Khalifah, said it proved the German judiciary was "neutral".

    An international law professor at Zagazig University, Nabil Himli, believed it showed the system was not "biased against Islam or Arabs and that the German authorities are fair".

    'Bad image'

    Still, many Egyptians have expressed the wish that Germany had a death sentence to use in this case.

    "She died, but he's still alive," Badr Shorbagy, a neighbour of Ms Sherbini from Alexandria, complained to the Associated Press news agency.

    Ms Sherbini's husband, Olwi Akaz, gave wrenching testimony in the trial, telling how his son, who now lives with family in Egypt, misses his mother.

    Mr Akaz had moved to Germany to carry out doctoral research in molecular biology but has said he does not think he will continue to live in Dresden.

    Tarek Sherbini, the brother of the dead woman, said "the image of the German people is very bad" following the attack and claimed it showed hatred of Muslims.

    There was a recent sign of a continuing strain in relations when the Dresden orchestra postponed planned performances in Egypt.

    Officials say they hope tensions will now ease.
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